PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - Presidio of Monterey military and civilian members were in attendance during the Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage event at the Tin Barn May 26.

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.

Members of the 311th Training Squadron sponsored the event which opened with "The Star-Spangled Banner," sung by the Presidio of Monterey Air Force Choir.

Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Assistant Commandant Col. William Bare spoke about the importance of Asian Americans to the prestigious language school. DLIFLC boasts a spectrum of diverse cultures needed for the students to accomplish their goals in learning their target languages, Bare explained.

However, the origin of the school comes from the Japanese, or Nissei, linguists who were needed during World War II, he noted.

Speakers at the event were Noa Ala, an American Samoan who works as Bare's executive assistant, Pfc. Joven Cala, 229th Military Intelligence Battalion Soldier, and Rochelle Goita, Tagalog assistant professor.

Ala, spoke of her native American Samoa background as well as several influential American Samoans, such as football player Troy Polamalu and former wrestler and actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

Cala and Goita spoke on the importance of Filipino support to Americans during WWII. The also explained popular misconceptions and misunderstood gestures, such as the Filipino practice of pointing with ones lips versus with the hands.

Ala also performed a traditional dance, or "siva," with her 16-year-old daughter Faustine. Additionally, a group of teachers and students from the Tagalog department performed the "Pandanggo sa Ilaw," a dance requiring the skill to balance two oil lamps while making energetic and elegant gestures.

After the event, attendees were able to partake of samplings of traditional foods from Asian and Pacific Island culture.