Waegwan, South Korea – A standing-room-only audience filled the Community Activity Center at Camp Carroll here to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month through taekwondo demonstrations, music, song, dance and food, May 4.
Soldiers from the Pacific Islands and South Korea displayed the US military’s diversity and strength during several performances showcasing their heritage. Audience members were welcomed onto the stage during two of the demonstrations to share in the traditions.
“We may wear the same uniform, but our backgrounds are different,” said Army Sgt. Esther Tukumoeatu, 6th Ordnance Battalion. “It’s important for everyone to understand where each other is from for the benefit of the team.”
Attendees of all ranks and ethnic backgrounds filled the auditorium wall to wall to enjoy the performances by US soldiers, Korean Augmentation to the United States Army soldiers and Korean nationals.
“Today was about celebrating the heritage of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have contributed to the military,” said Army Lt. Col. Huy Luu, guest speaker and command surgeon for 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command. “The unique and diverse background makes us richer.”
Serving on the Korean Peninsula makes this celebration uniquely special, several service members said. The audience shared not only in Polynesian and Samoan traditions, presented by soldiers, but also Korean culture displayed by local residents. It is important to understand different cultures because US military members represent nearly every nationality.
‘It Was a Very Special Experience’
“This was a very special experience, being able to share our culture with US soldiers,” said Park Jun-Sang, one of the Korean performers. “Our group is already making plans for next year’s observance. We would like to teach soldiers and invite them perform with us.”
After the cultural demonstrations were complete, guest were invited to sample several culinary dishes originating from the Pacific and Asian regions. The most visually striking item on display at the main table was a whole kalua pig for everyone to sample. Kalua is a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that utilizes an imu, a type of underground oven.