By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterMay 8, 2014
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 8, 2014) -- Hundreds came together at the post exchange May 2 to celebrate diversity and share in a culture that many in the Army are familiar with.
Fort Rucker kicked off Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month with a celebration that included music, dancing, food and performances that people on the installation were able to enjoy as they were immersed in Far-East culture.
"This event is one for the entire community and it's an honor for the exchange to be able to host the event along with the Fort Rucker (Equal Opportunity) office to promote diversity," said Susie Antonello, Fort Rucker Army and Air Force Exchange Service visual merchandiser. "With this event, we hope to recognize and continue the efforts that Asians and Pacific Islanders have contributed to this country."
The event featured traditional Chinese music played on Chinese instruments, Hula dancing and Tae Kwon Do demonstrations, musical performances by members of the local Asian community, traditional Japanese dances and a sampling of different Asian cuisines.
Among the performers were Yuying Zeng, of Troy University's Confucius Institute, who entertained the crowd with renditions of traditional Chinese music played on a Chinese flute; Deana Dodger, who provided a demonstration of Tae Kwon Do forms and a Hula dance; Han Lee, of Enterprise Elementary School, who played and performed the popular song, "I'm Yours," by Jason Mraz on his ukulele, as well as a musical selection on the keyboard; and Troy Simoine, who entertained by playing the keyboard.
"I think Fort Rucker has done an excellent job here representing the contributions of not only Asians and Pacific Islanders, but of all cultures, and it's always nice to see and learn about the different cultures from around the world," said Jeffrey Dougherty, retired military. "I've been to many different Asian countries and I'm always amazed by their culture, and especially by how heavily they are shaped by their culture even when they move somewhere like the United States."
One of the final performances came from Carol Hara, who is the first Asian Senior Ms. Wiregrass, who performed a traditional Japanese ribbon dance and shared Dougherty's sentiment.
"I feel like I'm back in California when I see all of this here -- it feels so international," she said.
Hara, who is of Japanese decent, was born in Denton, Ark., and raised as an American, but kept a lot of her cultural traditions and even provided a show of a traditional Japanese ribbon dance during the event.
As a baby during World War II growing up on the West Coast, she and her parents were put into internment camps during the war. Although she doesn't remember the ordeal, she said just knowing that her Family had to endure something like that shows her how far we've come as a country.
Hara and her husband moved to Dothan 44 years ago because of work and only expected to stay for five years, but loved the area so much they decided to stay and have been here ever since.
"We've definitely come a long way, but we still have a ways to go," said Hara. "This is my mother country, though, and I love the South. This is my home, and if you have your friends and you have your Family, you'll be happy wherever you are."
Regardless of where people come from or what their backgrounds are, Antonello said she hopes that people can just enjoy different cultures and celebrate the diversity that makes up the history of the nation.
"It just helps to embrace the diversity of our community," she said. "From music and dance to cultural food and events, there is something for everyone to enjoy throughout this month-long celebration right here on post."
Other events being held throughout the month to celebrate Asian-Pacific American heritage include an Asian-themed lunch at both dining facilities May 16 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; a bowling tournament at Rucker Lanes May 23 with door prizes and Asian-Pacific heritage trivia; and a luncheon at The Landing May 30 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., of which tickets cost $11.50.
For more information on events or tickets, call 255-3750.