GULF OF ADEN – Sailors and Marines from Asian and Pacific Islander backgrounds entertained and educated the crew aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) during an Asian American and Pacific Islander celebration in the hangar bay, May 21.
Asian and Pacific Island crewmembers shared some of their culture through dancing, singing and acting. Dancers and actors wore costumes and tropical flowers and placed different colored leis around the necks of audience members.
“As I look around on this multi-purpose ship where we have various colored jerseys that represent one unified purpose on the flight deck and throughout the ship, America has one unified purpose,” said Capt. Keith Moore, Commander, Amphibious Squadron One. “As we celebrate what makes us complete and special in the Navy, we also celebrate what makes us whole as a nation and a country.”
This event provided the crew of Boxer an opportunity to take a pause from its high operational tempo, and shift focus from mission to heritage while also learning about several important contributions from Asian American and Pacific Islanders to the U.S. military.
“The Asian American and Pacific Islander ceremony gives everyone an opportunity to learn about our history and experience a sample of our cultures, customs and traditions,” said Lt. Nilbert Ng, Boxer’s administration officer and keynote speaker during the event. “This ceremony not only celebrates the many contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islanders, but also promotes strength through diversity within the Navy.”
The Boxer Diversity Committee is comprised of approximately 30 Sailors from different ethnic groups and cultures. Together they serve as an organization driven to recognize and embrace the differences among the crew.
“It feels great to celebrate the Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage, and to embrace the power of diversity amongst all Sailors and Marines that make up the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Boxer Amphibious Ready Group team,” said Chief Hospital Corpsman Janmichael Columna. “A perfect example is the diversity committee, because events like these are not created by one individual, but rather by multiple members of the committee from different backgrounds developing ideas towards a common goal.”
Asian and Pacific Islanders have served in the U.S. Navy since the late 19th century where they served aboard naval vessels as stewards. In 1971, Asian and Pacific Islanders were given opportunities to pursue many other rates within the Navy.
“I have family members who retired after serving in the Army’s infantry unit, and six of my cousins served on board multiple ships,” said Columna. “My cousin Ruel definitely influenced my decision to join the Navy. He was a Chief Petty Officer aboard USS Bonhomme Richard [(LHD 6)], who always shared stories about the Navy. Like him, I’m a proud Navy Chief who tells my family stories about serving in the world’s greatest Navy.”
Asian and Pacific Islander cuisine was served both during the ceremony and during lunch. Food items included lechon, red rice, lumpia, pork or chicken adobo, egg drop soup and upside down pineapple cake. The ceremony concluded on the mess decks with a cake cutting and group photograph.
“Today’s ceremony was outstanding and amazing. It surprised me that we have this much diversity on board this ship,” said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Christopher Amoah. “Everyone came out to represent their culture and to support the event. We are from all walks of life and we come together.”
According to Ng, diversity serves as an important component to enhance the mission of the fleet and create a force of strength.
“The Navy’s most important resource is manpower. The brave Sailors and civilians who serve on our ships, aircrafts, and bases,” said Ng. “The rich history of diverse culture from all over the world provides us with a plethora of skills and talents. We must continue to embrace these differences to build the foundation for a brighter future and a stronger Navy.”
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month observances are celebrated by the Department of Defense in May every year to highlight and honor both the legacy and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S.
Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.