By Ellen Crown, U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency Public AffairsMay 30, 2017
The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, a subordinate organization of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, hosted an Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebration at the Community Activity Center on Fort Detrick, Maryland, May 25.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is celebrated each year in May to recognize the contributions of people from Asian and Pacific Islander descent in the U.S. Congress passed a joint Congressional Resolution in 1978 establishing the first week of May as Asian American Heritage Week. This timeframe was chosen because of two important anniversaries: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in America on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad by predominantly Chinese laborers on May 10, 1869. In 1990, Congress voted to expand it from a week to a month-long observance and in May 1992, the month of May was permanently designated as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
USAMRMC and Fort Detrick Commanding General Maj. Gen. Barbara R. Holcomb provided opening remarks at this year's observance. The event's entertainment included dancers from Chinese Culture and Community Service Center who performed several dance routines.
Commissioner, Maryland State Veterans Commission (District 8 Rep.) Dr. Cynthia Macri served as guest speaker. Macri is also the vice president of the board of directors of the Asian American Center of Frederick, Maryland, as well as vice president for health programs at Asian Indians for Community Service. Additionally, she is the vice president for education and integrative health at LIFT A VET.
The "Asian/Pacific Islander" designation encompasses more than 50 ethnic or language groups including Asian, native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. Highlighting this year's observance theme, which was "Unite Our Voices by Speaking Together," Macri talked about the importance of celebrating each culture and recognizing that diversity gives us strength.
"Asians are still lumped together as one minority," said Macri. "Yet, culturally, we are different."
The Army includes more than 57,000 Asian American and Pacific Islanders across the Total Army Force. The Navy includes more than 20,500 active duty Sailors, 4,000 Reservists, and 18,900 Navy civilian employees that identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander.
Macri, a retired Navy captain, talked about her father and his experiences with the Japanese-American relocation during World War I. Macri explained how two months after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 ordering all Japanese-Americans to evacuate the West Coast. This order resulted in the relocation of approximately 120,000 people, including Macri's father, to internment camps throughout the country -- despite that fact that many of these people were American citizens. Macri said that while those were difficult times for Asian Americans, they were encouraged not to resist physically. Rather, they resolved to operate within the law to later seek justice.
"We learned that shared pain can make us stronger and unite us together," Macri said.
Macri's father was eventually released and went on to serve in the U.S. military. As a military child who grew up overseas, Macri admitted she rarely thought of herself as Asian American; she only thought of herself as American. It wasn't until she was older that she fully understood and appreciated the experiences of her father and so many others.
"No matter where we come from or who are ancestors are, we should honor them," Macri added. "They did make sacrifices, even if we didn't know about them."