The concepts of diversity, leadership and civil empowerment defined the 3rd Infantry Division’s Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month observance at Fort Stewart’s Club Stewart.
First, Asian-Pacific Americans’ multi-ethnic diversity was displayed through three unique and entertaining performances.
Looking like a gold- and red-clad statuette, Val Prompalin of Hinesville performed a traditional Thai dance, Lum Pat Sa Pa, for the celebration.
Filipino folk dancers exhibited sure-footedness performing a Tinikling dance using wooden rods. They also pulled a few soldiers on stage to join them in a quick lesson, proving this traditional storytelling dance of the Phillipines requires much practice and skill.
The Matsuriza Taiko Drummers provided a rousing grand finale, earning them a standing ovation.
Guest speaker Dr. David Chu spoke about leadership and civil empowerment, lauding the achievements of Asian-Pacific Americans through the centuries and praising military families for the sacrifices they make in support of service members.
Chu, a former under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness from 2001-09, was a senior policy advisor to the secretary of defense on recruitment, career development, pay and benefits for active-duty military, Reserve and National Guard personnel and Department of Defense civilian workers, according to www.asianamerican.net.
He oversaw the defense department’s health program, commissaries and exchanges, the Defense Education Activity and the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, according to the website.
Today, Chu is president of the Institute for Defense Analyses, a nonprofit corporation that operates in the public interest, according to 3rd ID public affairs.
“Leadership often comes in quieter styles,” Chu said, referring to the manner in which many Asian-Pacific Americans have served.
He told stories of prominent Japanese Americans, like Norman Mineta, a former U.S. secretary of transportation and former secretary of commerce. Mineta, Chu said, was 10 years old when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Like thousands of other Japanese American families, the young Mineta’s family was interned in camps during World War II. Still, Mineta went on to serve in the U.S. Army, Chu said.
Chu said all true leaders, including soldiers on the battlefield, share an inner strength.
“Where does this inner strength come from?” Chu asked, answering “The family.”
“The (military) family sacrifices a great deal so the military member can serve,” Chu said, listing the challenges spouses and military children endure with frequent moves. He added military families also may sacrifice higher incomes, because some service members may earn less in some careers than do their civilian counterparts.