By Spc. Dalinda Salazar, 41st Fires Bde. PAOJune 3, 2010
FORT HOOD, Texas-The 41st Fires Brigade hosted a Asian/Pacific Heritage month celebration at the 25th Street Chapel, May 26.
Guest speaker Lt. Col. Leafaina Yahn, originally from America Samoa, now the deputy brigade commander for the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Brigade, spoke on moving from the islands as a teenager for better education options. Yahn graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1989 and received commissioned as a second lieutenant.
The celebration featured a nun chuck demonstration by Pfc. Andre Figueroa, a native of Tacoma, Wash., from Headquarters and Headquarters Battery 41st Fires Bde; a Taekwondo demonstration by Figueroa and Sgt. James Lee, from B Company, 589th Brigade Support Battalion from Kwang-Ju, Korea; and a traditional Samoan "Taualuga" dance performed by Spc. Siupolufaataualofa Maika, a native of Aua, American Samoa, with A Co., 589th BSB and Spc. Rapia Leota, with 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment from Pago Pago, American Samoa.
Yahn presented power point slides of Samoan culture and spoke of how these influenced Samoan lives. Yahn expressed the importance of acknowledging cultures and spoke about a few of the many contributions of Asians to the military.
"I'm going to talk a little bit about a couple important things to me as a Samoan, about my culture that they don't know about," said Yahn. "Then I'm going to talk about some of the Asian Pacific Islanders that have helped to defend our country and our contributions to the United States."
Yahn believes it is important to celebrate all cultures because they are what make the military so unique.
"I think it's not just important to Americans, all Americans, but it's more important to us as a group of people because it gives us time to reflect about our history," said Yahn. "I was lucky because I was born and raised in Samoa, but there are so many others whose parents and grandparents migrated to the U.S. and have never had the opportunity to get in touch with their culture. It kind of gives us the opportunity to reflect and go back and ask those hard questions of our parents and do some research."
Spc. Russel Walker, with the 324th Network Support Company, from Shreveport, La., agreed that cultures need to be recognized and celebrated and that learning about them can help people understand each other more.
"All cultures need to be celebrated equally," said Walker. "The Army is a melting pot and it's great to learn more about different cultures because we are able to understand why people think the way they do."
Pfc. Christopher Hassler, originally from Mankato, Minn., came to the celebration to learn more about the Asian-Pacific culture .
"It is important for every individual race to look back and remember what accomplishments they have made," said Hassler. "My opinion is that our culture is made up of other cultures so it is important to understand those influences."