Story and photos by Devin Fisher
Nearly 150 Fort Carson members gathered at the Elkhorn Conference Center Monday to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with a tae kwon do demonstration, Filipino cultural dancing and a food sampling.
Sponsored by the Fort Carson Equal Opportunity Program, the Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Celebration was designed to provide a glimpse into the Asian and Pacific Islander cultures, said Sgt. 1st Class William Shipman, 10th Special Forces Group equal employment adviser who served as the event’s master of ceremonies.
“One month would not be a long enough time to celebrate all the diverse cultures there are when you talk about the contributions of Asians and Pacific Islanders,” he said. “(These) cultures are so diverse; today we will be able to share with you a small sample of some of the culture.”
Members from the U.S. Taekwondo Center North from Colorado Springs opened their demonstration with basic punching and kicking techniques before breaking boards with combination jumps and spins. The group’s finale featured Josh Ainsworth breaking four, two-inch thick bricks with his bare hand.
Dancers from the Filipino-American Community of Southern Colorado shared the courtship dance, the Carinosa, and the Tinikling, the Philippines National Dance. The event concluded with an ethnic food sampling, including teriyaki chicken and sweet-and-sour ham.
Asian Pacific American month traces back to 1977 when the U.S. House of Representatives commissioned a 10-day observance, that was later extended to the full month of May by President George Bush in 1990, said Col. Jeffrey Bailey, 4th Infantry Division deputy commanding general for maneuver.
Highlighting this year’s theme of “Diverse Leadership for a Diverse Workforce,” Bailey said the Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage has made the nation, and the Army, better.
“In the Army it is important to develop the capacity to encourage, train and mentor the diverse workforce and we are blessed here at Fort Carson to have leaders who care and who are committed to the Army Values.”
He noted many Asian and Pacific Islanders have crossed vast oceans and overcome significant obstacles in the past 100 years coming to America in search of opportunity for better lives.
“They have been … providing the diversity that has made our nation stronger and has made our nation better,” he said.
A melting pot of cultures, Bailey said America has had its share of power struggles. He said the nation is at its best when the people of many diverse cultures stand shoulder to shoulder, supporting Soldiers and fighting for freedom.
“It is this common purpose that has strengthened the fabric of our nation and demonstrates why this cultural diversity that we’re recognizing today is so important,” Bailey said. “We are clearly a stronger nation today because of the people that we are recognizing.”