USAG HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea -- An Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month observance was held at Far East District (FED) headquarters, May 20. The theme for this year’s AAPI Heritage Month is “Advancing Leaders Through Purpose-Driven Service.”
Approximately 90 people attended the positive, energy-filled event, to honor Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, participate in the entertainment and enjoy food, provided by FED personnel.
The South Pacific Warriors Dance Team and Eighth Army Rock Band gave performances, and the Humphreys High School JROTC presented the colors.
The rock band played Pankgajo, Simple Love Song and Dynamite, fitting with the theme of the event.
Maj. Gen. Mark Toy, United Nations Command chief of staff, served as the keynote speaker for the event. As a 4th generation Asian-American and Soldier assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in various capacities for a decade, Toy was invited to share the history of his life, growing up in California. He also shared his thoughts on leadership; passion, seeking mentors, building relationships, being humble, and always learning, which helped him throughout his career in the Army.
“Be open to the idea of constantly learning,’ he said. “It may make you uncomfortable a little bit, but being a little uncomfortable is good. Because if you’re not learning, you’re not growing as an individual.
“I am excited about being here because diversity is so important. We are in a month that means so much to me. There is going to come a time where, no matter what tribe you belong to, you are going to become the senior leader in that tribe,” said Toy. “Not just ethnicity, it could be anything…you’ve got to ask yourself, what am I doing for my tribe? Because if a senior person in a formation is not going to do it, who’s going to do it?”
Spc. Queenieamary Otemai, a member of the South Pacific Warriors dance team and a Soldier assigned to the 814th Multirole Bridge Company, 11th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Sustainment Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, expressed her experience as a performer.
“Growing up in the islands, it’s dancing, singing, performing for guests or family members. The culture invites everyone. You hear us speaking our language when they’re dancing. We are just telling them ‘hey, smile.’
“This is traditionally our way of telling our daily lives. The words of the song and the hand movements, everything we do, it’s our daily cultural routine. I am glad to be a part of this.”
In 1978, a joint congressional resolution established Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. The first 10 days of May were chosen to coincide with two important milestones in Asian Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants, May 7, 1843 and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869.
In 1992, Congress expanded the observance to a month-long celebration that is now known as Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In 2009, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month was changed to Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month to recognize the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.
At the conclusion of the event, participants were recognized by Col. Christopher Crary, FED commander, and a special recognition was given to David Thomas, the master of ceremonies and an FED engineer, and to Stephen Brown, coordinator of the event and the FED Equal Employment Opportunity manager.