By Sgt. Michael Blalock, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division PAOMay 23, 2013
Fort Wainwright will celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month at a special event May 28 at 1:30 p.m. at the Physical Fitness Center.
May was designated as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month by Congress in 1990 to commemorate May 7, 1843, when the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the United States, and to mark the anniversary of the May 10, 1869, completion of the transcontinental Railroad by mostly Chinese immigrants.
American Samoa is also honored during the month, but since it has a population of approximately 60,000 people, it's occasionally overlooked due to its comparatively small size.
"We can learn from any culture," said Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Hacker, the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division command sergeant major, "but the Samoan culture has a lot to teach us -- especially in the Army -- about respect, about trust and about just taking care of each other."
Hacker, who lived with a Samoan family for several years, still maintains close ties to the community.
"I owe them a lot," Hacker said. "I was headed down the wrong road and they set me straight, saved me, really."
Staff Sgt. Eteru Patane, the Company C, 3- 21st, 1-25th SBCT supply noncommissioned officer, was born in American Samoa and is president of Fort Wainwright's Samoan Association.
"I've met people who don't even know what a Samoan is, so it's great to be able share our culture with people who may not know much, if anything, about us," said Patane, who joined the Army in 1995. "And it means a lot to me that the Army dedicates a month to recognize the contributions of Polynesians to America and the Army. Samoans have been in every war since World War I."
The 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment will host an Asian-Pacific Heritage observance Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. This celebration will promote cross-cultural awareness, diversity and honor contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Representative Scott Kawasaki of the Ninth District (AK) will be the guest speaker. He has served Fairbanks as a public servant for seven years as a state representative and six years as a city council member.
There will be Polynesian dance performances by Tupa Tafa'ifi.