FORT BELVOIR, Va. (May17) -- The commanding general of the Northern Regional Medical Command spoke about hard work and bravery during Fort Belvoir's Asian Pacific American Heritage Month observance May 15.
Brig. Gen. Joseph Caravalho, Chinese and Puerto Rican American, shared his experiences growing up in Hawaii and the source of his career success with servicemembers and civilians in the Fort Belvoir Community Center.
"My parents sacrificed life's luxuries to give their five children a good education, as their investment for us," said Caravalho. "This investment in me, gave me lifelong opportunities."
Fort Belvoir, the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command and the Northern Regional Medical Command Equal Opportunity Offices co-hosted the celebration of Asian Pacific history and culture.
Attendees partook in the festivities by performing impromptu hula dancing and shouting warrior chants with Hawaiian Entertainment Company Polynesian dance professionals.
Caravalho, the keynote speaker,
opened the festivities.
The Hawaiian native grew up in a diverse population of ethnicities such as Korean, Japanese, Filipino and Portuguese.
Caravalho didn't consider himself any different than his peers as his parent's emphasized qualities such as respect, discipline and hard work.
"Growing up, I knew my job was to study hard," Caravalho said.
The hard work paid off as Caravalho graduated magna cum laude from Gonzaga University with a bachelor of arts in mathematics in 1979. The general then received his medical doctorate at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences School of Medicine in 1983.
After numerous promotions and awards, Caravalho eventually became the second commander of the U.S. Army Medical Command's NRMC in July 2011.
Master Sgt. Matthew Baller, NRMC EOO advisor, said Caravalho's success makes him a good example of the theme for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: "Striving for Excellence in Leadership, Diversity and Inclusion."
"He's a standing representation that with hard work, regardless of your background, you can succeed," said Baller who believes Caravalho's presence inspired NRMC senior leaders to attend the observance. "To have the senior leaders present set the tone for today."
Caravalho said his success "demonstrates that the Army is a true meritocracy that embraces diversity."
The Hawaiian Entertainment Company enlightened and entertained the crowd after the general's speech. Four dancers and a cultural narrator shared Hawaiian and Polynesian cultural customs including the historical significance of dance, songs and clothing.
One custom is derived from an old Samoan Island tradition where 16-year-old boys performed a dance routine that involved spinning a machete burning fire at both ends of the knife. Boys were considered men if they could control the spinning machete and withstand the flame heat and blade sharpness.
A dancer performed this ritual while the audience watched and he even placed the fire on his mouth.
The outfits the performers wore throughout the performances contained elements from nature such as wood from trees, bird feathers, coconut and pearl shells.
"We had to rely on the elements of nature for our clothing and our jewelry," said Paki Allen, Hawaiian Entertainment Company cultural narrator said.
Baller called the display a learning experience for attendees.
"We have such a unique culture and we come from such a beautiful place," Allen said. "We like to share our singing, dancing and culture with others."