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Asian-Pacific contributions celebrated

Dancers, martial artists feated at Stewart

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POSTED: May 14, 2010 11:05 a.m.
Photo by Denise Etheridge/

Command Sgt. Major Iuniasolua Savusa takes to the dance floor with the dancers.

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Fort Stewart highlighted contributions made by Asian Pacific Americans on Wednesday during the in stallation’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Observance at Club Stewart.
Shapely dancers in colorful costumes from Polynesian Arts of Savannah performed and students from the World Martial Arts Academy of Hinesville demonstrated taekwondo and hapkido moves.
Command Sgt. Major Iuniasolua Savusa, a native of American Samoa, gave the keynote speech. Savusa serves as the senior enlisted leader and adviser to the U.S. Pacific Command Combatant Commander in Honolulu, Hawaii. He joined the Army 30 years ago.
Savusa described the historical hardships and racial discrimination faced by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
“Sometimes life in America proved to be a nightmare instead of a dream,” Savusa said, when he referenced the internment of hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans in relocation camps during World War II.
Savusa touched on the bravery of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, which was originally an Asian American unit in World War II. The regiment lost more than half its men to save some 200-plus Texas National Guardsmen in the Battle of the Last Battalion, fought at Biffontaine, France, he said.
The regiment fought in Italy, southern France and Germany. It became the most highly decorated regiment in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces, Savusa said, with 21 of its soldiers receiving the Medal of Honor.
These soldiers served with distinction although they were ill-treated, the command sergeant major said. Many of the 442nd Infantry Regiment soldiers’ families were placed in internment camps during the war.
“We were not only fighting for equality abroad,” Savusa said. These soldiers’ sacrifice helped break barriers and changed society within the U.S., he added.
The major also highlighted the career of retired Gen. Eric Ken Shinseki, who served as chief of staff of the Army from 1999 to 2003. Shinseki was appointed U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs by President Barack Obama last year.
Shinseki was maimed when he served in the Vietnam War. Despite his foot injury, the Asian American remained in the Army and rose in the ranks, Savusa said. Shinseki helped modernize today’s Army, he said.
Savusa was presented a machete by 3rd Infantry Division rear detachment commander Col. Stuart McRae. McRae said the gift could be used to “cut through red tape.”
Following the awards presentation, Savusa and McRae, along with other senior leaders, good-naturedly took the stage for an impromptu Polynesian dance lesson. Savusa clearly had his technique down pat.
McRae said the Army holds heritage month celebrations to recognize “the great richness we have in this country.” It also benefits soldiers to learn about diverse cultures and traditions, McRae said.

 

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