DAEGU, Korea - A standing room only audience filled the Community Activity Center at Camp Carroll to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month through taekwondo demonstrations, music, song, dance and food, Thursday, May 4. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

Soldiers from the Pacific Islands and Korea displayed our military's diversity and strength during several performances showcasing their individual nation's heritage. Audience members were welcomed onto the stage during two of the demonstrations to share in the traditions first hand.

"We may wear the same uniform but our backgrounds are different," said Sgt. Esther Tukumoeatu, 6th Ordnance Battalion. "It's important for everyone to understand where each other is from for the benefit of the team."

Attendees of all ranks and ethnic backgrounds filled the auditorium wall-to-wall to enjoy the performances by U.S. Army soldiers, Korean Augmentations to the United States Army and Korean nationals.

"Today was about celebrating the heritage of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have contributed to the military," said Lt. Col. Huy Luu, guest speaker and command surgeon for 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command. "The unique and diverse background makes us richer."

Being on the Korean Peninsula makes this celebration uniquely special. The audience shared not only in Polynesian and Samoan traditions, presented by soldiers, but also Korean culture displayed by local residents invited to celebrate our mixed heritage. It is important to understand our history because our military services are made up of nearly every nationality in the world.

"This was a very special experience, being able to share our culture with U.S. soldiers," said Mr. Park, Jun Sang, one of the Korean performers. "Our group is already making plans for next year's observance. We would like to teach soldiers and invite them perform with us."

After the cultural demonstrations were complete, guest were invited to sample several culinary dishes originating from the Pacific and Asian regions. The most visually striking item, on display at the main table, was a whole kalua pig for everyone to sample. Kalua is a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that utilizes an imu, a type of underground oven.

Join us next month for several scheduled events to commemorate the 67th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. Watch the 19th ESC and USAG-Daegu Facebook pages for additional information and updates.