FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Servicemembers and civilians participated in an event at the Ritz-Epps Fitness Center here to celebrate Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month Friday.
Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month recognizes and pays tribute to the contributions of people of Asian and Pacific Island decent in the United States. The Asian-Pacific American designation encompasses over 50 ethnic or language groups including Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.
Hosted by the 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, the theme for this year was "Leadership to Meet the Challenges of a Changing World."
The guest speaker was Dr. Shirley Chao, associate professor of Biology and lead assessment coordinator for the College of Arts and Sciences at Fayetteville State University. Chao spoke about the contributions Asian Americans have made to American society.
"As Asian Americans, we share a heritage we can all be proud of," she said. "America's heritage is rich because of the presence of Asian Americans."
Cpl. Gloria Sala, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, contributed to the celebration by dancing traditional Samoan dances with the Samoan dance troop,
Olo O Samoa.
The dance group is directed by Staff Sgt. Jerome L. Iese, 342nd Army Reserve.
For Soldiers, usually stationed far away from Family, being able to take part in events like this helps build morale.
"Many Samoans, like me, are very far away from home. But participating in activities like this one helps us to at least get to practice the traditions and customs of our native home," Sala said.
The event also raises awareness in the community about different cultures here on Fort Bragg.
"Lots of people sometimes wonder what ethnicity I am and ask me lots of questions about American Samoa and what it is like to live there," said Sala. "With these types of programs I am not only able to tell them about it, but they can also attend these types of events and see for themselves our native dress and some of our native traditions."
At the program this year, those attending were able to not only enjoy Asian-Pacific American dances and clothing but they were also able to try different Asian cuisine like shrimp and broccoli, Thai spring rolls and chicken lo mein.
Sergeant 1st Class Thomas M. Evcic, Equal Opportunity noncommissioned officer for XVIII Airborne Corps, said that the unique cuisine served on occasions like this is usually what gets more people to come out.
"During festivities that celebrate different cultures such as Hispanic or Asian Heritage month, food-sampling is one of the best ways for others to get unique and authentic examples of the culture," said Evcic.
The Equal Opportunity Office will continue to celebrate the diversified culture on Fort Bragg.
"We not only have functions for Asian-Pacific Americans but for almost every culture," Evcic said. "It not only gives servicemembers a chance to come out for good food and good entertainment, but it promotes awareness and makes Soldiers aware of all the culture around them."