By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterMay 3, 2018
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The Army is made up of Soldiers from all corners of the globe, and Fort Rucker celebrates that diversity by honoring the different cultures within its ranks.
The installation kicked off Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month with a celebration at the post exchange to highlight the contributions that Asians and Pacific Islanders have made throughout history, as well as provide a taste of the culture to the local community.
During the event, people were able to sample authentic Asian cuisine, learn about the history of Asian/Pacific Islanders throughout American history, and enjoy traditional music and dance performed by volunteers from the community.
People were even able to try their hand at Chinese calligraphy, which was something Trina Mendheim, military spouse, said was one of the more interesting aspects of the event.
"I always think writing is something people always take for granted," she said. "It's one of those things as you get older that you don't think about because for most people it just comes naturally.
"It's just fascinating to me because of how different our languages are, especially with the writing," said Mendheim. "We only have to use 26 letters to write in our language, but Chinese has thousands of characters in (their written language), and that's just something that is so difficult for me to even fathom. It's a great lesson in how languages and even writing evolves over time."
For many, the kickoff was a way to not just highlight the contributions of a single culture, but a means to see how diverse not only the military is, but the U.S., as well.
"People always say (the U.S.) is a melting pot because we have so many different cultures here," said Jeff Tanda, retired military. "I've been all over the world in my military career, and it's difficult to find another place in the world where the people are so diverse."
Tanda said it's because of that diversity that he feels it's necessary to continue to highlight the contributions of other cultures.
"That's what makes our country so unique, I think," he continued. "We can draw from so many different cultures and look at everything from varying points of view. There is no one way to do things, and in order to grow as a country or even as people, we have to be able to embrace what makes us different, and more importantly understand it.
"Once people can understand that it's our differences that can bring us together through learning, then the world will be better off," he said. "We have to learn from each other -- otherwise what's the point of living in the greatest country on Earth?"
Bringing people together to understand the various cultures is exactly what observance months like Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month are about, said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Castillo, 110th Aviation Brigade Equal Opportunity adviser.
"It's important to celebrate not only Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, but cultures in general because we, as a country and a society, are built from many different cultures and demographics," he said. "It is important to step back and observe the contributions each culture has made to this society. We live under one flag in one country. Whether we are cognizant or not, everyone contributes in some shape, form or fashion, and their ancestors have also contributed to the development of this country."