Dancing dominates Hohenfels' Asian-Pacific celebration
June 13, 2012
By Mark Iacampo
HOHENFELS, Germany -- Drums, dancing, and feasting marked Hohenfels' Asian Pacific Heritage Month celebration as one of the liveliest events of the year with the Community Activity Center overflowing with cheering crowds, recenlty.
Dozens of dancers, including men, women and children, performed a variety of traditional dances form such far-flung places as Hawaii, Samoa, Polynesia and the Philippines, while traditional foods were prepared and served by a whole host of volunteers.
The dancers trained for roughly four months under the tutelage of Leilani Potasi and her husband, Sgt. First Class Faamagato Potasi. Leilani said she has spread her love of dancing wherever the Army has sent them by offering instructions to whoever is willing to learn.
"This is the only time in the year that we get to share our culture with the community," said Leilani, who originally hails from Samoa. "So every year, I try to make sure that the community knows that we have so much to offer."
Asian-Pacific includes the entire Asian continent, as well as the Pacific islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. This celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States occurs in May to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the U.S. on May 7, 1843 and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the Trans Atlantic Railroad by a predominately Chinese immigrant workforce, on May 10, 1869.
Guest speaker Chaplain (Capt.) Hochang Min said that while Asian-Pacific includes a wide group of people, they are all very different.
"Our language is different, what we eat is different, we even look different," he said. "But that does not stop us from celebrating together. In fact, differences make the celebration even better. Can you imagine if there were no differences -- if all the ladies had brought the same food? We are able to enjoy the differences exactly because they are differences."
Min said that despite the differences, it is the similarities that bind the group together, especially within the Army family.
"We look around, and we don't see Asian Americans, or African Americans, or European Americans -- we see one another as Soldiers, brothers and sisters in arms, and beloved family members," he said.
While admitting that Army life can be hard, Min pointed out that it is one of the few places where people can be looked upon for their own merits rather than by their skin color or background.
"So let us celebrate our differences, through song, through food, and through dance, and get to know one another even better," he said.
Singers included Staff Sgt. Richard Sianoya performing a love song in the language of his native Philippines, and a solo by Hohenfels Middle/High School student Bernadette Flores. Art work, jewelry, and traditional items from the various regions were also on display.
Staff Sgt. Shayne Semetara, a native of Hawaii and one of the male dancers, said sharing his background with the community meant a great deal to him.
"We're able to show them what we're made of, what we're capable of, and something brand new that people don't encounter at this type of event," he said.