From the battlefields of the Civil War, to Heartbreak Ridge in North Korea, to Vietnam, to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have stepped up to answer the call of freedom and have also paid the ultimate sacrifice alongside their brothers and sisters in arms of all nationalities, races and religions. 

Fort Hood celebrated Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, May 16, at the Phantom Warrior Center, honoring the contributions of the past and celebrating the contributions being made today.

“As we look at the changes and challenges standing today, to include hatred and prejudice, we’d do well to bear in mind the American legacy of acceptance and tolerance,” retired Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Akuna Jr., said. “The ability to unite our mission by engaging each other continues to strengthen our nation and helps us to persevere.”

A native of Maui, Hawaii, Akuna told the audience of more than 400 Soldiers about the rich Hawaiian history, as well as the impact Asian-Americans have made on the United States.

“The month of May was chosen because of the significance in Asian-American and Pacific Islander history,” Akuna explained. “On May 7, 1843, the first Japanese arrived in America and in May of 1859, East meets West, as thousands of Chinese immigrants complete the transcontinental railroad. Today, 176 years after these historic events, there are over 23 million Asian-Pacific Americans that can trace their roots to Asia and the islands of the Pacific.”

Akuna said he’s astonished by the diversity among Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, which encompasses millions of people across thousands of miles. Today, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are represented in all forms of human endeavor – they are scientists, teachers, athletes, entertainers, service members and more.

“In our country, the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community can trace their roots to at least 25 different nationalities, more than 75 different languages and hundreds of different ethnic groups,” Akuna said. “Their histories are as diverse as the land of their origins.”

Akuna shared a video of a Maori haka being performed at a wedding in New Zealand. The haka is a traditional Maori war dance, but is used at weddings as a sign of respect for the couple. Later, Akuna introduced Polynesian dancers from Baila Pacifica Entertainment, who performed several traditional Polynesian dances. They also provided laughter as they pulled Soldiers from the audience to the front to dance.

This year’s theme is “Unite Our Mission by Engaging Each Other,” selected by the Federal Asian Pacific American Council for the purpose of uniting one another through leadership and engagement. The logo is a multi-colored geometric puzzle, which was created to resemble the puzzles found in many Asian cultures.

This year’s event was hosted by the 1st Cavalry Division, who had cultural artifacts provided by the Gregg and Michelle Philipson Collection and Archive. Traditional Hawaiian food was also available for people to sample.