May 12, 2010

Diversity is celebrated during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — To celebrate diversity among the ranks, the Virginia National Guard hosted a program celebrating the differences and the cultures of the Americans who track their ancestry to the part of the world known as the Asian Pacific.

  Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard sample authentic Asian cuisine during the Virginia Guard's celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage month at Fort Pickett May 6, 2010. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Approximately 60 people attended the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month program presented by the Virginia Guard’s Equal Opportunity Office at Fort Pickett, Va., May 6. Among the attendees were approximately 30 Soldiers currently enrolled in the equal opportunity leaders course, also being held at Fort Pickett.

“These events are important due to the changing demographics in America, the diverse leadership and the diverse workforce that makes up the National Guard,” said Capt. Antoinette Allen, state equal employment manager. “It helps us to be a better force; it helps us to be more inclusive and it helps us to get to know our peers.”

Those in attendance were welcomed by Allen, who informed them of the afternoon's scheduled events. The celebration began with a special performance from the Fairfax Chinese Dance Troupe. The three dancers began with a Chinese dance followed by a Mongolian dance and a Malaysian dance.

 After completing the first set of dances, the performers took a break and Allen introduced special guest speaker Lt. Col. Lapthe Flora, executive officer of the 116th Brigade Combat Team. Flora was very proud to have been selected as the speaker for the second year in a row.

“I feel very honored and thankful that our nation set aside this beautiful month of May to honor the Asian Pacific American heritage,” said Flora. “I am very proud of my Asian heritage, but most importantly I am extremely grateful to be simply called an American.”

  Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Virginia Guard Soldiers and Airmen dance with performers from the Fairfax Chinese Dance Troupe in a flash mob-style routine during the Virginia Guard's honoring of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month at Fort Pickett May 6, 2010. Approximiately 30 Soldiers and Airmen ateended the event presented by the State Equal Opportunity Office. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Flora, who is also a native of Vietnam, spoke about his life growing up in Saigon in the 1960s and 1970s. When Flora was only 13 years old he and his brothers fled the city and spent three years living in the jungle before finally being moved to refugee camps and then on to the United States, where he graduated high school, graduated from Virginia Military Institute and rose to become a vice president of ITT Geospatial Systems, where he designs night vision goggles and holds several patents for NVGs.

“The Asian Pacific Islander’s story is one that teaches us to overcome persecution,” said Allen. “It is a story that is the American story. It is the one of achieving dreams, reaching your goals and serving your nation.”

After the conclusion of Flora’s speech, the dancers performed three more traditional dances from Mongoloia, China and even performed an interpretation of an Indian, Bollywood-style dance. The dancers then invited the Soldiers to come to the front and join them in a flash mob-inspired dance routine.

Flash mob is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public location to perform an unusual act or for a brief time and then disperse. The dancers taught the Soldiers the routine they intend to use in an upcoming flash mob the troupe has planned in D.C.

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