By Alia NaffoujMay 25, 2016
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (May 25, 2016) - Camp Zama's community members came together to celebrate the culture, traditions, history and heritage of Asian American Pacific Islanders at the Community Activity Center May 19 during an observance, hosted by the U.S. Army Japan Band.
The purpose of an event like this is to share someone else's culture and learn what they are about and where they come from, said Sgt. Joel Heredia, assigned to USARJ Band and observance organizer.
"These places are wonderful... with wonderful people," said Heredia.
Sgt. Maj. (retired) Jesus Muña, a native of Saipan and guest speaker, gave a personal accounting of his family's history during World War II and the importance Saipan played during the war.
"This strategic location grew into an important supply and communication center that helped solidify Japan's presence in the western Pacific Ocean," said Muña.
During his speech, Muña said his father was one of 50 young native Chamorros and Carolinians who were selected to support the Marine Corps 6 Provisional military battalion for a special mission. The 50 young men were chosen because of their general knowledge of the Saipan terrain and for their fluency in the Japanese language.
Muña said he served 25 years in the US Army and even "managed a few days at Camp Zama."
"I actually spent 11 days at the Camp Zama hospital when I was wounded; injured in Vietnam and evacuated here 47 years ago," said Muña.
Heredia said Muña's speech highlighted some of the military episodes of Saipan's history.
"We had an incredible guest speaker who served in Vietnam, and whose father served in WWII," said Heredia.
Soldiers should attend all these observances as they will be able to take something away from each one, he said.
"I think it is really important to be able to come to every one of these observances... we have the opportunity to learn something," said Heredia.
The Maynilad Folkloric Group, volunteer dance group, performed several times for the audience, giving them an in-depth look at folk dances that are part of the Philippine culture.
Today's program was entertaining, said Spc. Kent Hsieh, assigned to 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.
"We were able to see a lot of the minority cultures and their dances," said Hsieh.
"It's good that there is a multi-cultural appreciation in the army," said Hsieh, "because as Americans, we are a mixing pot; but a lot of times we don't know what goes in the mixing pot."
After the observance, audience members were invited for light refreshments and cake.
About Asian Pacific Heritage: Asian/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island. (http://asianpacificheritage.gov/)