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Wing marks Asian American, Pacific Islander heritage month

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. – Members of Cheyenne Mountain AFS sample a variety of themed food at the base’s Asian Pacific Heritage Month event May 18, 2012. The event also included an Eskrima martial arts demonstration, educational materials and a hula performance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Arni Rohan)

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. – Members of Cheyenne Mountain AFS sample a variety of themed food at the base’s Asian Pacific Heritage Month event May 18, 2012. The event also included an Eskrima martial arts demonstration, educational materials and a hula performance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Arni Rohan)

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. - Hula dancers perform at Cheyenne Mountain AFS May 18, 2012, as part of the Asian Pacific Heritage Month event which included an Eskrima martial arts demonstration, educational materials and food. The month of May was chosen by Congress to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants. (U.S. Air Force photo/Arni Rohan)

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. - Hula dancers perform at Cheyenne Mountain AFS May 18, 2012, as part of the Asian Pacific Heritage Month event which included an Eskrima martial arts demonstration, educational materials and food. The month of May was chosen by Congress to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants. (U.S. Air Force photo/Arni Rohan)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

The 21st Space Wing recently held a heritage month celebration to mark Asian American and Pacific Islander contributions to society and the United States.

The 721st Mission Support Group celebrated Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a program featuring Polynesian dancers accompanied by acoustic guitar and an ethnic food sampling May 18 at the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station Technical Support Facility. Senior Master Sgt. Arni Rohan, Tech. Sgt. Oliver Alcaraz, and Staff Sgt. Maria Lactaoen - all members of the 721st MSG and members of the special observance committee - worked tirelessly to develop the educational program that resulted in outstanding participation from the 721st community.

On May 21, the 21st Comptroller Squadron also featured a similar event showcasing a large display of Filipino artifacts dating back to the 1920s, owned by Jeanette Barad, 21st CS budget officer, and a food sampling of Filipino cuisine. Barad has spearheaded the ethnic luncheon for the past 10 years.

"I began by collecting a box of cultural items over the years to share with my children as they got older, and it has grown into the large collection I have today that includes, clothing, scarves, jewelry, historical books, and pottery, with some Chinese and Korean items included," she said. Barad also saw a need for the Asian American and Pacific Islander culture to be shared in the community and wanted to take a personal role in sharing her cultural roots.

Each year, May is designated as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by Congress, and this year's theme was "Striving for Excellence in Leadership, Diversity and Inclusion."

President Barack Obama also issued a 2012 presidential proclamation commemorating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, citing, "Generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have helped shape the United States into what it is today. Their histories recall bitter hardships and proud accomplishments -- from the laborers who connected our coasts one-and-a-half centuries ago, to the patriots who fought overseas while their families were interned at home, from those who endured the harsh conditions of Angel Island, to the innovators and entrepreneurs who are driving our nation's economic growth in Silicon Valley and beyond. Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month offers us an opportunity to celebrate the vast contributions Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made to our nation, reflect on the challenges still faced by AAPI communities, and recommit to making the American dream a reality for all."

According to the Library of Congress, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month originated in 1978 when Congress passed a joint resolution to commemorate Asian American Heritage Week during the first week in May. This period was chosen because it includes the date for the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in America, May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad by many Chinese laborers May 10, 1869.

The "Asian/Pacific American" designation encompasses more than 50 ethnic or language groups including native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. There are now more Asian and Pacific Islander groups than in the past - with 28 Asian and 19 Pacific Island subgroups representing a vast array of languages and cultures. These groups include Chinese Americans, Filipino Americans, Japanese Americans, Korean Americans, Vietnamese Americans, Asian Indian Americans, Laotian Americans, Cambodian Americans, Hmong Americans, Thai Americans, Pakistani, Samoan, Guamanian and many others.

"Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander" refers to people having origins in the original people of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa or other Pacific Islands. It includes people who indicated their race or races as "Native Hawaiian," "Guamanian or Chamorro," "Samoan," or "Other Pacific Islander," or wrote in entries such as Tahitian, Mariana Islander or Chuukese.

Many Asians and Pacific Islanders have ancestry in multiple different cultures.

Whether military service persons or Department of Defense civilians, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are proud members of the U.S. Armed Forces and are helping to write the next chapter of the American story.

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