Students from Jeong’s Yong In Martial Arts of Madison demonstrate Taekwondo.
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Army recruiters Joshua Taitano and Matthew Thompson perform the Haka ceremonial dance
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Maj. Bill Kim speaks at the Asian American Pacific Islander heritage observance at The Cliffs.
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The first in-person special/ethnic observance at Redstone Arsenal since pre-COVID took place on Friday in honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Highlighted by a Taekwondo performance from young students at Jeong’s Yong In Martial Arts of Madison, a dramatic Haka ceremonial dance from the Haka Warriors, and a keynote speech by Maj. Bill Kim, named the 2021 Active Duty Army Chaplain of the Year, the event was held at The Cliffs.

Hosted by the 2nd Recruiting Brigade, the celebration and luncheon was planned by Sgt. 1st Class Raul Cabanellas, the brigade’s equal opportunity adviser.

Kim, a former chaplain for the 2nd Recruiting Brigade who now serves as chief of doctrine at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, referenced the many Army heroes of Asian and Pacific Island heritage, and said the monthlong observation is an opportunity to reflect on “diversity and uniformity.”

“We are American Soldiers. God and country,” he said. “Diversity and uniformity can be great strengths, yet only with proper balance.”

The Haka dance derives from Maori culture, according to leader Edward Sasan, the brigade’s antiterrorism officer.

A ritual of Maori war games, performed with rigorous moving, rhythmic stomping of the feet and loud chants, Haka was designed for warriors to “intimidate their enemies,” Sasan said.

Col. James Welch, commander of the 2nd Recruiting Brigade, thanked all participants and provided gifts for their contributions to the heritage celebration.

“I love events like this because it reminds of the rich diversity that exists in our Army and our nation,” Welch said.

The event was hosted by the Capt. Biernernest Bordas, with an invocation by Lt. Col. David Beavers, AMCOM chaplain, and singing of the national anthem by Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Grabill.

At the conclusion of the program, participants sang The Army Song and enjoyed food from Panda Express, including white rice and grilled teriyaki chicken, fried rice and orange chicken and noodles and Kung Pao chicken.

Upcoming 2022 equal opportunity special/ethnic observances include LGBT Pride Month in June, Women’s Equality Day on Aug. 26, National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, and Native American Indian Heritage Month in November.