MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Combat Center personnel embraced the spirit of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which lasts all of May, by celebrating its own diversity during a cultural presentation in a Combat Center classroom May 12.
“For centuries, America’s story has been tied to the Pacific. Generations of brave men and women have crossed this vast ocean, seeking better lives and opportunities, and weaving their rich heritage into our cultural tapestry,” said President Barack Obama in a proclamation released April 29, officially opening this year’s observance.
“During Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we celebrate the immeasurable contributions these diverse peoples have made to our nation,” he said.
Asian and Pacific Islander cultures are broad terms which cover the entire Asian continent and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.
“It’s good to recognize everyone’s individuality,” said Gunnery Sgt. Antonio Martinezpadron, the equal opportunity representative for 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.
Master Sgt. Al Rose, the Combat Center’s equal opportunity advisor, agreed, saying individuality can be used to strengthen the Corps, if employed properly.
“It is up to us as leaders and Marines to value that [diversity], and learn how to deploy that,” Rose said. “We have to know how to take all of those differences … ball it up into one thing, put leadership on top of it and lead Marines.
“The best way to lead Marines is by understanding Marines,” he said.
Attendees of the event learned about the history and important contributions Asian and Pacific Islander Americans have made to shape the nations cultural identity. They were also entertained by several native dance performances.
The observance is not restricted to the military community. Asian and Pacific Islander contributions have been nationally recognized for more than 30 years.
President Jimmy Carter began the observance in 1978 when he signed Presidential Proclamation 4650, which designated one week in May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Week, according to information in the Law Library of Congress.
Congress took the week-long celebration one step further when they petitioned Former President George H.W. Bush to expand the week into a month in 1990. In 1992, Congress got their wish in the form of Publication L. 102-450, which assigned May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
“It’s a sense of saying that we haven’t been forgotten in history,” Rose said.
May was chosen because it marks major milestones in American and Asian Pacific American histories.
The first Japanese immigrants, hoping to stake their own claims during the Gold Rush, arrived in America May 7, 1843. A surge of Chinese immigrants directly impacted another event, the completion of the Trans-Continental Railroad, May 10, 1869, which was built by a mostly-Chinese work force, according to information in the Law Library of Congress.
While every month of May since 1992 has heralded the observance of Asian Pacific American heritage, this year holds its own special distinction.
It is the “100th anniversary of the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay, a milestone that reminds us of an unjust time in our history,” according to a statement in Obama’s proclamation. “For three decades, immigrants from across the Pacific arrived at Angel Island, where they were subject to harsh interrogations and exams, and confined in crowded, unsanitary barracks. Many who were not turned back by racially prejudiced immigration laws endured hardship, injustice, and deplorable conditions as miners, railroad builders and farm workers.”
Today, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans are counted amongst “leaders in business, academia, and public service” and “have served proudly in our Armed Forces,” continued the proclamation.
For more information on the history of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, visit the Law Library of Congress at http://www.loc.gov/law. To read the presidential proclamation in its entirety, visit http://www.whitehouse.gov.
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