By Sgt. 1st Class Christina Bhatti
2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – The performers of Toa O Taji showcased their Asian Pacific heritage during a celebration of poetry through dance and the written word in a tribute to their culture at the Sgt. John M. Schoolcraft III Pavilion on Camp Taji, northwest of Baghdad, May 23.
The performance marked the end of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which is celebrated yearly in May. The month celebrates the traditions and cultures of Asia and the Pacific Islands.
"Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a time for us to take pride in the diversity of our nation, celebrate the contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islanders to this nation, and reaffirm our commit to the promise of America's future for all Americans," said Sgt. 1st Class Rey Ado, a native of Sacramento, Calif., and equal opportunity advisor for 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
The event highlighted Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers from the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team "Warrior," 25th infantry Division, and the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade. Together the group named themselves Toa O Taji, which translates from Samoan into the Warriors of Taji.
Their performance highlighted the many colorful dances of the Pacific Islands as well as a poem translated in to Hindi and the Soldier's Creed translated into Chinese.
Intended to raise awareness of the more than 15 million Americans who identify themselves as Asian American or Pacific Islander, Ado said he intended the performance to reflect the 16 major ethnic groups of the Asian and Pacific Islander American community.
"We celebrate not only the individuals that have forged milestones throughout history, but we also celebrate the growing community. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are a critical part of our nation's growth and success," he said. This community is one of the fastest growing in the United States. Their diversity reflects the richness and strength of our country."
Maj. Roy "Kimo" Sabalboro, a native of Ewa Beach, Hawaii, served as the guest speaker for the evening's events. He reflected on the accomplishments to Asian Americans and Pacific Islander to the history of the United States.
"We should all take solace," he said, "in the fact that many Asian Pacific Americans have paved the road and have made an impact not only in our culture but the world as a well."