PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - Nearly 200 military, civilians and family members came together to celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month at the Tin Barn May 16.

Highlighting this year's theme of "Building Leadership, Embracing Cultural Values and Inclusion," Chief Petty Officer Sam S. Shin, Center for Information Dominance Unit, spoke about Asian- and Pacific Islander-Americans.

"Today's technology has opened a lot of the proverbial doors-and-windows of opportunity to anything new, anything foreign, somewhere far away from the comforts and familiarity of home," he said, adding that it has virtually diminished the geographic, demographic, religious, and political boundaries that once separated, or in some cases, isolated people from each other.

"Let us continue to widen our circle of compassion to all ethnicities thereby strengthening our inner security and embracing all Americans and the whole of the United States of America in her beauty," said Shin.

Cmdr. Michael S. Cooney, Center for Information Dominance Unit commander spoke about the fondness and tremendous affection for the Asian American and Pacific Islander cultures as he has spent several years in Japan, Hawaii and has visited a Pacific Islands such as Pongo Pongo.
Cooney explain the ceremony is a humble attempt that puts into perspective and acknowledges what Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have not only succeeded at, but also have endured during his history and quite frankly in many nations' struggles to discover, embrace or employ the enduring ideals of diversity.

Additionally, the Presidio of Monterey Navy Choir performed the Star-Spangled Banner; Capt. Eric Parks battalion chaplain of 229th Military Intelligence, provided the prayer; and members from the Asian I School opened the observance with a Chinese Dragon Dance.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a month to celebrate and pay tribute to the contributions generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders have made to American history, society and culture, according to the Library of Congress website

Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month traces back to 1977 when the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed a resolution and a bill to observe the first 10 days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. The recognition was extended to the full month of May in 1990.

The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese people to the United States in May 7, 1843, and to mark the completion of the transcontinental railroad in May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month honors people whose ancestry originates from a long list of countries including the entire Asian continent, the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

According to the website, Asian-Pacific American designation encompasses more than 50 ethnic or language groups including native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. There are now more Asian and Pacific Islander groups than in the past--with 28 Asian and 19 Pacific Island subgroups representing a vast array of languages and cultures.

"Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander" refers to people having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa or other Pacific Islands. It includes people who indicated their race or races as "Native Hawaiian," "Guamanian or Chamorro," "Samoan" or "Other Pacific Islander," or wrote in entries such as Tahitian, Mariana Islander, or Chuukese on surveys.