FORT DRUM, N.Y. (May 23, 2019) -- Members of the Fort Drum community gathered May 22 at the Commons to celebrate the culture and heritage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Hosted by the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), the National Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month observance featured a cultural resources display, dance troupes performing traditional Philippine, Hawaiian and Samoan dances, food sampling and historical video.

Retired Maj. Gen. Joseph Caravalho Jr., guest speaker, provided insight into his birthplace of Hawaii but stated for fact that he is actually half Puerto Rican and half Chinese.

"On ancestry.com I found out that I have some Russian from the Chinese side (of my family) and from my dad's side, some Spanish and what we say Afro-Caribbean," he said. "So I will be back three or four more times this year to speak at different observances."

Caravalho, the former chief medical adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and current president of The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, said that it was an honor to be invited to speak because of the importance of recognizing the diversity in our nation.

"That's what all of these observances are all about so that we collectively as Americans can learn about folks who we may not know that much about," Caravalho said.

He said that service members probably have a greater exposure to diversity than people in other workforces.

"We get to learn that no matter where you are, or where you get to live, there are good people all over the country," Caravalho said. "And for those deployed, there are good people all over the world."

In closing, Caravalho spoke about an Asian-American Soldier who proved to be a real American hero as a member of the 100th Infantry Battalion, an all-Japanese unit in the U.S. Army that merged with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II.

Pvt. Shizuya Hayashi, of Pearl City, Hawaii, and members of the 442nd fought in eight major campaigns in Italy, France and Germany. On Nov. 29, 1943, Hayashi distinguished himself in action at Cerasuolo, Italy.

"During a flank assault on high ground held by the enemy, Pvt. Hayashi rose alone in the face of grenade, rifle and machine-gun fire," Caravalho said, reading Hayashi's Medal of Honor citation. "Firing his automatic rifle from the hip, he charged and overtook an enemy machine gun position, killing seven men in the nest and two more as they fled."

Hayashi and his platoon advanced 200 yards when an enemy anti-aircraft gun opened fire on them. He returned fire, killing nine and capturing four prisoners, and the remainder of the enemy force retreated.

For his actions, Hayashi was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second-highest decoration. It was upgraded to a Medal of Honor during a White House ceremony in June 2000, with 22 Asian-American Soldiers honored with the highest military award.

Caravalho mentioned this in particular because Hayashi's son was his friend and classmate, and he held the family in high regard.

"In closing, I hope you see that I am proud of my heritage and the culture of my upbringing," he said. "More so, thank you for allowing me to share my perspective with you."

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month has been observed every May since 1992 to commemorate the anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad and the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States. Before that, Asian Pacific American Heritage Week was celebrated annually the first week of May starting in 1978.

The theme of this year's observance is "Unite Our Mission by Engaging Each Other."

To learn more about Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, visit https://asianpacificheritage.gov/.