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SBD 1 celebrates Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

SBD 1 celebrates Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Nathan Watanabe (center) stands next to his display of military memorabilia, talking with servicemembers and guests at the Asian American and Pacific Islander cultural celebration May 20, 2022, at Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado. Watanabe’s exhibit featured uniforms, weapons and equipment from the U.S. Army’s 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated unit in World War II.

SBD 1 celebrates Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

U.S. Space Force 1st Lt. Camaren Ly (center), 1st Space Operations technician, prepares to serve Japanese matcha tea at the Asian American and Pacific Islander cultural celebration on Friday, May 20, 2022, at Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado.

SBD 1 celebrates Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

U.S. Space Force 2nd Lt. Melody Wolfson (left) and U.S. Space Force 1st Lt. Camaren Ly (right), 1st Space Operations Squadron technicians, pose for a photo alongside a portrait of incumbent Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Joanne S. Bass. Bass is the 19th CMSAF and the first person of Asian-American descent to hold the prestigious position.

SBD 1 celebrates Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Peterson Space Force Base’s Asian American and Pacific Islander cultural celebration was held at Peterson Space Force Base, May 24, 2022. The event included various guest speakers, performances and on-site food trucks — including Asian fusion and Hawaiian offerings. Items like lumpia, the Filipino version of springs rolls; and Hawaiian-style kalbi, Korean short ribs, were served to guests.

SBD 1 celebrates Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Adorned in attire representing both the United States and American Samoa, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Sharon Lepou’s mother listens to guest speakers present during the Asian American and Pacific Islander cultural celebration at Peterson Space Force Base, May 24, 2022. Lepou, a North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command intelligence analyst, organized Peterson SFB’s AAPI cultural celebration and performed the Taualuga, a culturally-significant dance, while wearing traditional clothing.

SBD 1 celebrates Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Sharon Lepou, North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command senior enlisted leader, performs the traditional Samoan dance, the Taualuga, at the Asian American and Pacific Islander cultural celebration May 24, 2022, at Peterson Space Force Base.

SBD 1 celebrates Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Servicemembers and guests observe the display of military memorabilia at the Asian American and Pacific Islander cultural celebration May 20, 2022 at Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado. The exhibit was provided by retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Nathan Watanabe, a campaign planner at North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command, and adjunct professor at Colorado State University Pueblo.

PETERSON SPACE BASE DELTA 1, Colo. --

Space Base Delta 1 rounded out May with two Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month cultural celebrations for Schriever Space Force Base and Peterson SFB on May 20, and May 24, 2022, respectively.

“Asian American and Pacific Islander [Heritage] Month is a chance to showcase our culture, background and traditions,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Sharon Lepou, North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command senior enlisted leader.

“AAPI Heritage Month offers the opportunity to talk about how far the AAPI community has come — and not just within the military, but in government and local community as well,” continued Lepou. “We have a lot more leadership and involvement, compared to 40 or 80 years ago.”

Lepou, who is primarily Samoan, but is also of Chinese descent, was the lead planner for Peterson SFB’s AAPI cultural celebration at the Peterson Chapel.

The event followed Schriever SFB’s AAPI cultural celebration held at Bennie’s Breakroom which was hosted on-site by U.S. Space Force 1st Lt. Camaren Ly and U.S. Space Force 2nd Lt. Melody Wolfson. The two technicians, both with the 1st Space Operations Squadron have ties to the AAPI heritage. Ly is half-Vietnamese and Wolfson’s husband is half-Taiwanese.

“We had a couple roundtables earlier in the month. People feel when a heritage month doesn't apply to them — like Black History Month, Women's History Month, or Asian American [and] Pacific Islander [Heritage] Month — that they can't, or shouldn't, participate,” said Ly.

“Everyone is welcome to all of the heritage months,” continued Ly. “It's learning about other cultures, their practices, families and what they celebrate and what they love and enjoy. For me, Asian American and Pacific Islander [Heritage] Month is a time to talk about what it means to be Asian American, and to share with other people what that means to me and to other people.”

The food samples at Schriever SFB were cleaned out quick. The provisions, in addition to matcha tea, included Filipino ube cookies, Taiwanese boba tea, Filipino chicken pancit and Vietnamese banh mi.

Peterson SFB’s event had on-site food trucks parked outside of Peterson Chapel — the options included Asian fusion and Hawaiian offerings. Items like lumpia, the Filipino version of springs rolls; and Hawaiian-style kalbi, Korean short ribs, were served to guests.

The cultural celebration featured guest speakers and a performance of the Taualuga by event organizer, Lepou — adorned in the festive regalia of a taupou, a ceremonial hostess. The Taualuga is a traditional Samoan dance, considered the apex of Samoan performance art and the centerpiece of their culture.

Nathan Watanabe, a campaign planner at NORAD and USNORTHCOM and adjunct professor at Colorado State University Pueblo, set up a display of historical military memorabilia for both celebrations.

“My display was of uniforms, weapons and equipment of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated unit in World War II composed primarily of AJAs or Americans of Japanese Ancestry, to use period terminology,” said Watanabe. “The unit is the most highly decorated unit for its size and period of service.”

Watanabe is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and a former assistant professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he taught military history from 2006 – 2008 and again in 2014 – 2016.

Watanabe is Yonsei — a Japanese diasporic term to specify the great-grandchildren of Japanese immigrants. The word means “fourth generation.”

“My father’s grandfather was the first to come to Hawaii in the early 1900s,” said Watanabe.

Lepou, who planned the Peterson event, believes that celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is just as pertinent as ever, if not more so: “It’s very important that we use the month of May as an opportunity to educate about who we are and what AAPI culture is all about.

For information about upcoming cultural celebrations and events, contact Space Base Delta 1’s Diversity and Inclusion Coordinators at (719) 567-3346.

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