By Mr. Bryan Gatchell (IMCOM)June 6, 2013
ANSBACH, Germany (June 6, 2013) -- In celebration of May being Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the 412th Aviation Support Battalion and the U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach Equal Opportunity office hosted an observance ceremony at Katterbach Physical Fitness Center May 31.
May was chosen as the month to honor the contributions of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders because May marked the anniversaries of the immigration of the first Japanese people to the United States in 1843 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, the tracks of which were laid by Chinese immigrants.
"Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have had a deep impact on our society as leaders in all facets of American life," said Col. Kelly J. Lawler, commander of USAG Ansbach, during his remarks, "thriving as athletes, public servants, scientists, artists, small business owners or as proud members of the United States Armed Forces."
Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph J. Chang, command sergeant major of the 412th Aviation Support Bn., served as guest speaker at the ceremony. In his speech he outlined the achievements of the 100th Infantry Bn. and the 442nd Infantry Regiment during World War II. The 100th was composed of Hawaiian National Guard Soldiers who were in large part of Japanese descent. The 442nd was composed entirely of American Soldiers of Japanese descent.
"If we're talking about World War II, one of the countries we were warring with at that time was Japan; here's a unit full of Soldiers with Japanese ancestry," said Chang. "Along with 21 Medals of Honor, they had 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 588 Silver Stars and over 9,000 Purple Hearts."
In his speech, Chang spoke of the Army's ability to understand the culture of Southwest Asia, but that Soldiers should endeavor to understand the cultures of their fellow Soldiers.
"If you ask an American Soldier nowadays, they can tell you about the culture of the people of Afghanistan and Iraq," said Chang. "I'm almost positive because of the fact that we've been fighting for 10 years. If you asked what the neighbors are doing, what the person in the foxhole is doing, whatever upbringing they had, whatever background they have, it's possible they [have not] take the time to understand each other. We sometimes forget or take for granted who is in our foxholes, our brothers and sisters in arms next to us. We want to make sure that we celebrate and we understand everybody's culture."
In addition to the speeches, the ceremony included both food and dance, both of which the Soldiers in attendance were enthusiastic for.
"The dancing was by far the best," said Gavin Taylor, a Soldier with B Company, 412th. "And the food."
"We're supporting our fellow Soldiers," said Kelley Spaulding, another Soldier with B Co. "[Spc. Freddy] Pu'e was one of the lead people in the first dance."
The dance portion of the ceremony began with Soldiers stationed at USAG Ansbach performing a traditional Pacific Islander dance, led by Pu'e.
This was followed by a series of dances performed by Paradise Blend, a cultural heritage group based out of USAG Hohenfels. This group practiced for several months before becoming an official group at the beginning of May.
"Paradise Blend is a family-oriented group," said Leilani Potasi, president of Paradise Blend. "Everybody in our group comes from different backgrounds. It's very diverse. It's not just Asians and Pacific Islanders; we chose to include anyone who wanted to join."
The group had volunteered to perform at a company barbecue, which Sgt. 1st Class Robert Forsythe, equal opportunity adviser for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, USAG Ansbach, attended. Forsythe asked the group if they would like to join the event.
"I told them about our event and that we'd really like them to come down, and they were more than happy to come on down and show us their culture," said Forsythe. "Our budget was severely limited, so we had to rely heavily on volunteers within the community, volunteers within the ranks of our Soldiers, volunteers within the ranks of our civilian counterparts, and work together to piece together what we were able to come up with today."
"I've never been to Ansbach, and I was interested, so I wanted to support [the] event here," said Potasi. "It helps us promote our name."
"I liked the dances," said Staff Sgt. Katie Bates, B. Co., 412th. "The dances were awesome."
Throughout the gymnasium, boards were on stands featuring the art work of students of Ansbach Elementary School, who competed in a poster competition displaying their knowledge of the history and culture of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
"It's important for us to celebrate this observance because of all the sacrifices the Asian community has made for our country -- not just now, but in the past as well, during the wars and even as far back as building the trans-continental railroad," said Forsythe. "Most of the people that helped build that were Chinese immigrants, and the sacrifices they made to help our community -- we need to show our appreciation for it and bring their culture to us."
To learn more about the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the U.S. Army, visit www.army.mil/asianpacificsoldiers.