ANSBACH, Germany (June 3, 2015) — Approximately 200 people attended this year’s Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month observance Friday at the Von Steuben Community Center here.
The event featured a diverse range of music and dances, which were provided by volunteers from the Ansbach and Hohenfels areas. The dance groups included the Hohenfels Bollywood Dancers, the Hohenfels API Dancers, the Ansbach Karinosa Group and the Spirit of Tahiti.
Volunteers also laid out a smorgasbord of Asian-American, Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian cuisine, which vanished before the end of the event.
Mitchell Jones, U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach deputy commander, served as introductory guest speaker. Jones spoke of the contributions and achievements that the people who make up more than 56 ethnic groups from Asia and the Pacific islands have made toward the U.S.
“While these Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities have the roots that span the globe, their success stories are uniquely American in an increasingly diverse nation,” said Jones. “Asian and Pacific Islanders stand apart as one of the most diverse communities. Generations of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have helped develop and defend the Unites States often in the face of tremendous racial and cultural prejudice.
“Despite these difficulties,” Jones added, “these men and women struggled, sacrificed and persevered to build a better life for their children and all Americans.”
Keynote speaker Capt. Eric Ni, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade medical operations officer, elaborated on the struggles Jones spoke about. In his speech, Ni used examples of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders whose indomitable spirit allowed them to surmount these struggles.
Ni said nearly 20,000 Chinese-Americans fought in World War II and, in New York City alone, nearly 40 percent of the Chinese male population was inducted into the military — mainly into the Army.
“Most of these men did not have Family stateside,” said Ni. “Their wives and children were, for the most part, still in China. They had little personal stake in the war, and yet they volunteered to wear the uniform and demonstrate their allegiance to America. On top of that, 14,000 Filipino guerrilla fighters fought alongside U.S. forces for three years to defend their homeland. An additional thousand Filipino-Americans joined them in conducting military operations.”
Ni then spoke of what was, to him, “the most fascinating war contribution,” which came from Japanese-Americans who were treated with “outright discrimination” during World War II.
Ni was referring to the forced relocation of Japanese-Americans to internment camps in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack. The conditions of the camps were often poor, and many of them were located in desolate locations throughout the country.
“What I want to highlight is not this dark period of American history, but the reaction of these Japanese-Americans,” he said. “When faced with intolerance and bigotry, these Japanese-Americans responded with patriotism, valor and loyalty.”
Initially denied the right to defend the nation, Japanese-Americans soon had the chance to serve when the policy was reversed through successful congressional lobbying. Ni said thousands of Japanese-Americans stepped forward as part of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
“The courage that they displayed is simply staggering,” said Ni. “We can only guess at the magnitude of their willingness to absorb the rigors of combat and the stings of battle by surveying the awards bestowed upon them.”
These decorations included 21 Medals of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, more than 4,000 Bronze Stars and 9,486 Purple Hearts.
“No other regiment in the 239 years of U.S. Army history has amassed an equivalent battle record, nor is it likely that any other regiment will ever match this performance,” Ni said. “What we can learn from these Japanese-Americans is that even in their bleakest hour, they understood that America stood for tolerance and equality, despite their current situation. Instead of becoming angry and remorseful, they transcended their deleterious state of affairs, transforming their anger and pain from their unjust treatment into a life dedicated to saving the nation.
“Many Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders came to the U.S. because it was the land of opportunity,” said Ni. “And in time, they came to understand it was the land of the free.”