By Zachary Hada, 55th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 11, 2018
Offutt Air Force Base is celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with events at various on-base facilities throughout May.
“The purpose of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month is to step back and recognize the contributions their cultures have made in America,” said Master Sgt. Courtney Bailey, 55th Wing Community Support superintendent. “Recognizing the many different cultures adds depth to our character and in the process, sets America apart from other places in the world.”
To celebrate the month, there will be a food tasting and recipe exchange at the Offutt Commissary on May 18, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. There is also a luncheon planned at the Patriot Club on May 24, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. The luncheon will feature Miss Omaha Outstanding Teen Phoenix Stanford, a hula and Filipino dance performances and Lt. Col. Fwamay Sullivan will be the guest speaker.
Service members can be stationed at various places across the Asia and the Pacific region. Being immersed in the cultures of Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Hawaii or Gaum, among others, exposes them to unique experiences, traditions, ancestry, and people.
“My appreciation for the Asian and Pacific Islander culture began as I left on my journey to Guam by myself because my wife was pregnant,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Puryear, 55th Medical Support Squadron physical evaluations board liaison officer. “The local community took me in, provided me with support and treated me like part of their family…When my family arrived, the community opened their arms to them as well, just as they did for me.”
Asian-Pacific American Heritage Week was established by Congress in 1978 to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions and achievements of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans to U.S. history and culture. The week was extended to a month in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush.
Congress officially designated May to be Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month on Oct. 23, 1992. May was selected for this celebration because it holds anniversaries such as the arrival in the U.S. of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the first transcontinental railroad with the labor of thousands of Chinese immigrants on May 10, 1869.
Asian American and Pacific Islanders have been serving honorably in the United States Military, since the War of 1812. U.S. Army Gen. Andrew Jackson noted in 1815 that Filipinos fought alongside his forces during the famed Battle of New Orleans near the end of the War of 1812.
People with Asian and Pacific Islander heritage began serving in the Air Force during the early days of World War II. Chinese-American women, as Women in the Air Force Service Pilots or WASPs, ferried planes from factories to air bases, tested new planes from the factory and towed targets used for aerial gunnery.
“The United States would not be where it is today without the contributions, support and care from our Asian American and Pacific Islander population,” Puryear said. “Come out and celebrate with us.”