EAST CHINA SEA – Sailors aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85) celebrated Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month at sea May 27.
Celebrated across the U.S. during the month of May, AAPI Heritage Month is a celebration of Asian and Pacific Islander culture and their contributions to the American way of life.
Yeoman 1st Class (SW/AW) Alofaaga Aveina, a native of the Independent State of Samoa, assigned to McCampbell’s administration department, began planning McCampbell’s ceremony at the beginning of the ship’s deployment, working through the challenges of preparing a celebration at sea.
“Normally, I would like to have some sort of music or song that is representative of our culture for the crew,” said Aveina. “I wasn’t going to let [not having] that stop us from throwing a celebration that everyone can enjoy, and our guest speaker had an amazing story to tell.”
The guest speaker at the celebration was McCampbell’s weapon’s officer, Lt. Tin Tran. Tran, and his family is from Vietnam that immigrated to the United States in 1982. The ceremony gave Tran the opportunity to express how he felt about not only serving in the military, but how proud he is to serve for such a diverse Navy.
"To me, being an Asian American means that I get to contribute to making America better and stronger, and add to the diversity that makes America special,” said Tran. “Our ability to persevere and come together to support our mission is amazing. We realize no matter what our heritage or back ground is, we are all still cut from the same fabric - we are all Americans.”
The celebration included a traditional Pacific Islander poem read by Operations Specialist Seaman Melinda Mains, as well as a special meal for the crew and a cake to follow. The event promotes the diversity of Asia and the Pacific Islands, broadening the perspective of individuals by recognizing not only well known countries like Japan and China, but shedding light on others, such as Tahiti, Samoa and New Guinea.
Cmdr. Thomas “T.J.” Dixon, McCampbell’s commanding officer, also spoke at the celebration, commending his crew for all that they do and encouraging his Sailors to get to know one another and learn more about each other’s diverse backgrounds. In addition, Dixon invited the crew to develop their relationships with not only people of the host nation of Japan, but it’s neighboring countries as well.
“We are here in this region, and we get to experience so much of the culture and interact with so many people. We need to continue our outreach in this region of the world, which has a rich history and so much to offer us,” said Dixon. “We have so many ports that we will be pulling into this year, and each is a great opportunity to continue learning and sharing.”
AAPI began in 1977 when U.S. Reps. Frank Horton and Norman Y. Mineta introduced a resolution that called upon the President to proclaim the first 10 days of May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Week.
Asian Pacific Heritage week was later extended to one month in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush. The celebration date was chosen in honor of the first wave of Japanese immigrants to the United States, as well as the completion of the transcontinental railroad, constructed mostly by Chinese immigrants.
McCampbell is assigned to Commander, Destroyer Squadron 15 and is forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, and is deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.