By DJ Montoya and Sgt. Christianna Sappa
U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Hawaiian leis, traditional Japanese clothing and dolls, Polynesian dancers, and authentic Asian Pacific food provided the setting for the 2013 U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command Asian Pacific American Heritage Month observance May 10 at the command’s Colorado Springs headquarters.
The theme for this year’s event was “Building leadership: Embracing cultural values and inclusion.”
“The Asian culture is very rich in tradition,” said Chief Warrant Officer Billy F. Schultze from the SMDC Chief Information Officer C-4 Plans Branch, who served as the host for the event. “I’m very proud to be an Asian-American. I find the cultural diversity that my mother (Filipino) bestowed upon me has helped me a lot in life. These cultural traits and differences are actually things being embraced. And with that embracing of cultural understanding, leadership is built.”
The guest speaker was John M. Santiago Jr., founder and CEO of elite WORKS, LLC.
Building on this year’s theme, Santiago told an audience of Soldiers, civilians and contractors, “To me American is synonymous with diversity and inclusion. Immigrants experience the freedom that’s embraced here and the opportunities to be who you want to be. The Asian Pacific community is itself a diverse culture coming from dozens of countries each with their own language, customs, traditions and history.”
Santiago then gave an overview on how integrated Asian Pacific cultures are in America through statistics and discussed the history and culture of the Philippines reflecting on his own family’s experiences.
“Like most immigrants, my parents came here with little or nothing except with the clothes they wore on their back… just to make their dreams and their children’s dreams come true,” he said.
Following his presentation, the audience was treated to music and dances by Magic of the Pacific Islands Polynesian Dancers, the performing arm of Halau Pulama Mau Ke Aloha Ka Ohana Ilima of Colorado Springs.
They performed various dances from around the Pacific islands, including one from the island of Tahiti known as an aparima. The song is entitled “Tiare Oe No Tahiti,” and is about the fragrant mother flower of Tahiti. The group also performed a hula from the island of Hawaii with a song entitled “Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai.” This particular hula deals with the plants of the sea. Its words and dance motions reflect the simplicity of being delighted by the view and fragrance of the ocean.
After the program, the audience was invited to sample food that included items such as kalua pork, chicken katsu, rice and macaroni salad.