The Bayonet

Tuesday, May. 27, 2014

Fort Benning celebrates Asian-Pacific Heritage

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Fort Benning recognized and celebrated Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage during an observance May 22 at the Kelley Hill Recreation Center. Celebration of Asian-Pacific American Month encompasses over 50 ethnic and language groups, said mistress of ceremonies, Sgt. Gretchen Rice, 3rd Armor Brigade Combat Team.

Guest speaker Brig. Gen. Leopoldo Quintas, commandant of Armor School, said roughly 20 million of the U.S. population claim to be Asian-Pacific Islanders and have taken a part in the nation's history and have fought honorably in the many conflicts.

"Each May, the U.S. Army, along with the nation, honors the history of Asian and Pacific Americans," he said. "This month was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese people to the U.S. on May 7, 1869, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad (on May 10, 1869), of which the majority of the workers were Chinese immigrants."

One of the groups that served with distinction was an all Japanese-American U.S. Army unit created in 1943 after the attack on Pearl Harbor - the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The unit is credited with helping change the anti Japanese-American sentiment in the U.S. Armed Forces.

"They are the most highly decorated Infantry regiment in our history," Quintas said. This year's theme - Diversity and Leadership - "reiterates the Army's long tradition and understanding (of the) potential that is created by embracing diversity among the ranks," Rice said.

During the event, Soldiers and Family members performed the culture's various dances represented throughout the Pacific, specifically the Polynesian Islands. The first performance celebrated Hawaii, where Hawaiian women performed, followed by Ruth Tua, daughter of Sgt. 1st Class, Robert Tua, 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment, who gave a Tahitian solo performance native to Cook Island.

The final performance celebrated Samoa, where Samoan women performed and Samoan men demonstrated a war dance where they discussed and prepared for a battle to intimidate their enemies as their ancestors once did.

Col. Charles Costanza, commander of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, volunteered to learn how to do a warrior cry with Samoan warrior dancer Spc. Christopher Nair, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment.

Nair revealed his secret on how to do an authentic warrior cry.

"The Warrior cry comes straight from your fat," he said.

Sgt. Nathan Vaitautolu, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, and Nellie Smith, Army spouse, who gathered the performers and led the preparation for the dances said the event was two-fold.

"We wanted to entertain everybody and give them a little taste of our culture," Vaitautolu said.

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