By Kyrene ReselMay 21, 2015
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (May 21, 2015) -- Inclusion was at the heart of the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month luncheon held at the Pershing Community Center Monday.
The event, themed "Many Cultures, One Voice: Promote Equality and Inclusion," was hosted by the 3rd Chemical Brigade and featured a meal, an excerpt from a Buddhist prayer, a traditional Korean drum performance and culminated with remarks from Brig. Gen. Miyako Schanely, 412th Theater Engineer Command, deputy commanding general.
"The month of May is an opportunity to acknowledge the achievements and contributions of Asian American, Pacific Islanders and native Hawaiians to American culture and society," said Sgt. 1st Class Anita Gartside, 3rd Chem. Bde. Equal Opportunity advisor.
"It is through the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month that we celebrate the cultural traditions, ancestry, native languages, and unique experiences represented among more than 56 ethnic groups (speaking more than 100 languages) from Asia and the Pacific Islands who live in the United States and the Fort Leonard Wood community," Gartside added.
Taking time out for observances like this one helps to build a stronger team within the Army and the community, Gartside, a Whitefish, Montana, native, added.
The event opened with an excerpt from the Expedient Means Chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which was read in Sanskrit Chinese by Georgie Trotter, a Buddhist Faith Group leader, who has been conducting Buddhist services on post for the past 10 years.
"Because the event theme was inclusion and there are so many different religions, cultures and differences, I chose that prayer because its essence is that as human beings, we are all equal and have the same potential," Trotter said.
Members of the Pulaski County Korean-American Association provided a traditional Korean drum performance just before Schanely, the first female engineer in the Army Reserve and second in the Army to make general officer, addressed a crowd of more than 220 attendees.
"We recognize the contributions of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and native Hawaiians to our great nation, and the theme this year of 'Many Cultures, One Voice,' is extremely fitting when you consider that there are 56 different ethnic groups that fit into the group that we are celebrating today," said Schanely, who is only the second Japanese-American woman to reach the flag rank.
She spoke of the many U.S. and military contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to include 31 Asian Americans who have been awarded the Medal of Honor: one from World War I, 24 from World War II and three each from both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
"I would like to draw your focus to the 24 Medal of Honor recipients from World War II because of their unique circumstances. Twenty-three of those 24 Medals of Honor were won during the European Theater, because Asian Americans were not trusted to fight in the Pacific," she said.
Schanely talked about the formation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team -- the first segregated military unit designated for Asian Americans -- about one year after Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and at a time when more than 125,000 individuals of Asian or Pacific Islander descent in the continental United States remained incarcerated by the federal government.
She quoted what President Franklin D. Roosevelt said at the time he signed the executive order, signifying the formation of the 442nd, "The principle on which this country was founded and by which it has always been governed is that Americanism is a matter of the mind and heart; Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry."
The 442nd became one of the most decorated units from World War II, Schanely said.
For Schanely, the actions during World War II had a direct impact on her Family's freedom, yet they still chose to serve in the U.S. military, she said.
"May we as Asian Americans continue this great legacy and may we never take for granted our unique differences or the unity that we share, and may we never take for granted those both past and present who have embodied both of those," Schanely said.
(Editor's note: Resel is a volunteer with the Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office.)