SAN DIEGO – Dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) joined their counterparts navy-wide throughout May to celebrate the 2017 edition of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.
During an event organized by the Multi-cultural Committee on May 19, the Harpers Ferry crew was treated to delicious Asian cuisine comprising a whole roast pig, and beef and chicken yakisoba. The meal was accompanied by a song and dance performances by Asian American members of the crew.
“It was an outstanding celebration,” said Chief Culinary Specialist George Martin Balogo who spearheaded the event for Harpers Ferry.
“We all come from different walks of life and race, and having the opportunity to celebrate and evaluate the history and heritage of those who have gone before us makes each and every one to understand the importance of all the sacrifices they made,” said Balogo.
“Thank you to all who put together a great celebration and delicious lunch in recognition of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As the theme this year goes, ‘Unite Our Voices-Speaking Together,’ we are one team; Harpers Ferry,” Cmdr. Tammy Royal, commanding officer of Harpers Ferry, told all hands.
For some Harpers Ferry sailors, the AAPI Heritage Month reminds them of the struggle and sacrifices their parents incurred and why they decided to follow in their steps. “My father served in the military during the Vietnam War,” said Operations Specialist Second Class Shalee Kumano, who hails from the Philippines.
Kumano, who enlisted in the Navy to “make a difference” for herself, said at a time when the Philippines was facing some serious economic down turns, her father enlisted in the Navy believing that the United States of America was the land of possibilities.
“His Service provided our family more than enough to live a comfortable life and my family and I are forever thankful for this opportunity,” Kumano said.
For Culinary Specialist Second Class Cheement Her, the “Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month means Hope.” This month, he said, reminded him of how his father and mother travelled to the United States in search of greener pastures.
“While growing up watching my parents struggle, I decided to join the Navy hoping to support my family with a better life,” Her said. “Being recognize by the Navy (through the AAPI Heritage Month) really brings joy and hope to my life, knowing that I have my family back at home and a family here onboard Harpers Ferry.”
According to Chief of Naval Personnel statistics there are 24,743 Asian American and Pacific Islander Sailors currently serving as part of the Navy Team. This includes eight admirals, 659 master chief and senior chief petty officers and 318 officers. These Sailors represent more than 56 ethnic groups, speaking over 100 languages from Asia and the Pacific Islands.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, formerly known as Asian Pacific American or APA, was first established in 1977.