FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- May is Asian-Pacific Heritage Month and people on Fort Rucker will get the chance to experience the diversity of the various cultures during the Asian-Pacific Heritage Month kickoff event at the post exchange May 5 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

During the event, people will have the opportunity to take part in themed activities, get a sampling of authentic Asian cuisine and treat their ears to the sounds of the Far East, all while expanding their minds to the diversity of the nation, something Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Castillo, 110th Aviation Brigade equal opportunity adviser, said is a necessity.

"I think it's very important, culturally, to educate the public -- not just the Soldiers but the general public, as well," he said. "I think there is a gap in cultural awareness as a whole and many times that can drive a wedge between different cultures.

"This is not about singling out a specific culture, but about educating the public to let people know that we're all contributing to society, we're on an equal platform and have something to offer," he continued. "I think if we can bridge that gap, then we can make the world a better place."

People will get a chance to help bridge that gap during the kickoff through participation by taking part in different activities, such as arts and crafts by the Confucius Institute of Troy University, including Chinese knot tying and Chinese calligraphy.

Attendees will also get the chance to view instrumental and dance performances, as well as sample different cuisines from a variety of Asian cultures.

During last year's kickoff, James Denison, veteran, expressed the importance of embracing different cultures to build stronger bonds through diversity.

"You need to have those different cultures and outlooks because I think that homogeneity can only breed ignorance," he said during last year's event. "There is always more than one way to look at a situation, and having the viewpoint of someone who comes from a completely different background than you is something that's invaluable.

"There were so many times where we wouldn't have thought out side of the box just because we never experienced anything other than what we know," Denison continued, referring to his time in service. "I think it's great that we recognize this type of diversity. It's not about celebrating what makes us different, but about celebrating what differences bring us together."

The kickoff ceremony is one of many events throughout the observance month to help educate people on the importance of diversity and the role it plays in shaping the nation, said Castillo.

There will be a field trip to Troy University May 12 for up to 40 people to attend, including Soldiers and family members, to tour the Asian Art Park, which was constructed last year. During the visit, attendees will get the chance to tour the Confucius Institute, as well, and participate in a traditional tea ceremony.

There is no cost for the trip, but people should bring money for meals and any merchandise they wish to purchase. Spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information, call 255-2669.

May 19, people can bring their children to the Center Library where there will be an arts and crafts book reading at 10 a.m. Children will have the chance to participate in themed arts and crafts, as well as learn about Asian-Pacific American culture through reading, said Castillo.

The main observance for the month will take place May 22 from 4:30-5:30 p.m. at Wings Chapel with performances and guest speakers to highlight the importance of cultural awareness and the importance of diversity.

"When I became an [equal opportunity adviser], I never realized until I actually went to school and started learning about other cultures that everybody is similar in a lot of ways," Castillo said. "I think people focus too much on the differences rather than focusing on the similarities, and we need to be able to get past that to be able to come together."