News: MND-B Soldiers celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
By Spc. Aaron Rosencrans
Multi-National Divison - Baghdad
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - Music and dancing filled the courtyard at the Strike Dining Facility on Camp Liberty, May 30, during the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebration where Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers learned about the many cultures of Asian Pacific Americans.
Soldiers from Camp Taji traveled to perform choreographed group and solo dances to help MND-B Soldiers have a better understanding of the Asian Pacific customs and cultures; the Soldiers also had the opportunity to sample traditional meals.
The event was to not only entertain Soldiers during the lunch hour, but to educate them about the different customs and traditions in the many Asian Pacific cultures.
"Events like these heighten the awareness of other cultures," said Master Sgt. Sarah Blackmon, a native of Maysville, N.C., who serves as the MND-B equal opportunity deputy and non-commissioned officer-in-charge with the 4th Infantry Division and MND-B.
"Because we are a diverse Army, we need to learn about other cultures to have a better understanding of our brothers and sisters who fight with us."
Part of the Equal Opportunity advisors' mission is to open the world to allow Soldiers to learn and have a better understanding of other cultures.
"If we get to know each other's cultures, our minds are opened so we can interact with someone of another culture without having a closed mind and without being prejudicial," said Sgt. 1st Class Stacy Merriwether, a native of Virginia Beach, Va., who serves as the equal opportunity advisor with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. "Not everybody knows about everybody else's heritage, so we try to have events that educate Soldiers about other cultures. We try to give them meals, dances or anything that's really unique about their culture."
Spc. Matthew Smith, a native of Waipahu, Hawaii, said he volunteered more than 100 hours of his free time to choreograph the event and help make the celebration a success.
"My passion is entertaining people, and I love to share my culture with everybody who wants to learn about it," said Smith, who serves as a fueler with Company A, 225th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. "This is the best way to do both – by performing and having a good time with it."
Smith said he plans on teaching his battalion one of the dances he performed so his unit can add it to their pre-mission rituals.
"One of the dances we're doing here is called the Haka, he said. There are many types of Haka, but this one is for intimidation. It's a high-energy dance we're going to use to boost the morale of the Soldiers. Also, my company is going to teach the dance to the rest of our battalion to motivate them before they go out on convoys in the future."
Another part of the celebration consisted of recognizing the great accomplishments Asian Pacific Americans have achieved in the U.S. and the fact that being an American has nothing to do with your race or where your family comes from.
"Being American has nothing to do with the place of your birth, the color of your skin, the language of your parents or your religious preferences," said Col. Gary Agron, a native of Anchorage, Alaska, who serves as the fire support and effects coordinator with the 4th Inf. Div and MND-B. "It's about opportunities garnered from hard work, equal freedoms and equal rights. It's about the belief that diversity offers a better solution; it's about service to the nation, whether in a school, church, family, community or right here."
Agron said he was grateful for the freedom Americans have to learn about each other and celebrating the differences within each Soldier.
"We were able to honor the great contributions and achievements of those Asian Pacific Americans," he said. "The more we share our cultures with other ethnic groups, the more we come together as one team in the U.S. Army."