By Sgt. Elizabeth Cole, 305th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, 9th Mission Support CommandMay 3, 2013
FORT SHAFTER FLATS, Hawaii -- Rooted deep in the islands of Hawaii is a kokua (respect) for not only the native culture, but for the 'aina (land) and kai (sea).
That love and respect is just the message the 9th Mission Support Command's U.S. Army Reserve Theater Support Group-Pacific, also known as the TSG, wanted to convey through its annual Earth Day festival, here, April 27.
More than 30 vendors and volunteers were invited from around Oahu to help Soldiers and their families gain a better understanding of how Hawaiians care for their land and water.
"Earth Day is an important day globally, and we are taking large steps in tying in various eco-friendly practices in everything we do," said Col. Eddie Rosado, commander for the TSG. "But we really want to embrace the culture, and we are moving forward in working with and adopting the practices of the native cultures where we have Soldiers located."
The family-friendly day featured native-Hawaiian activities like peeling and pounding taro to make poi, lei making and weaving coconut leaves.
Kaneala Salsedo, a teacher with Mana Ai -- a group of Hawaiians who educate and provide the community with hand-pounded poi, said he was very grateful to be a part of the event.
"It gives me such a joy to teach young people to perpetuate our culture and Hawaiian ancestors. And what better way to do it than through food," said Salsedo, as he helped a boy beat the purple, clay-like substance.
Woven into the day's happenings was a variety of earth-friendly fun for people of all ages.
Face-painted children and their parents flooded the parade field of the 9th MSC as they made their way to the various tents featuring a mock excavation encouraging participants to dig for artifacts, live music, bouncy houses, mural painting and hands-on learning about Hawaii's sea creatures in Living Art Marine Center fish tanks.
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii's Department of Public Works wowed event-goers with their "Upcycle" program which took old tank tops and made them into useful, reusable bags.
In a most eco-friendly fashion, the TSG enlisted the help of U.S. Army-Pacific in powering the entire event with solar panels, a solar windmill and a hydrogen-fueled Chevrolet Volt.
"One of our main goals was to use alternative energy sources to run the event. We didn't want to use generators or even power outlets from the buildings," said Rosado. "We thought if we're going to do an Earth Day event, let's really practice what we preach."
Rosado said he hopes in the years to come, the 9th MSC and the TSG will be able to engage more of the general public in the event.
"This event is a great opportunity to reach out to the local community and let them know what we are doing to help the environment," said Rosado. "We really hope to be able to work more closely with them in the future, exchanging ideas and expanding awareness."