DoD Observes Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 24, 2002 More than 600 people crowded into the ballroom of the Omni Shoreham Hotel here, May 22 for the Defense Department's first official Asian Pacific American Heritage Month observance in 21 years.
Officials pointed out that over the years, DoD has participated in forums and other events celebrating Asian Pacific American Month, but this marks the first time since 1981 that DoD has held its own observance.
The luncheon and awards ceremony was held in conjunction with the 17th Annual Federal Asian Pacific American Council's National Leadership and Training Conference. The council promotes equal opportunity and cultural diversity for Asian Pacific Americans within the federal and District of Columbia governments.
David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, delivered the keynote address. Chu paid tribute to Asian Pacific Americans who lost their lives or were injured in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. He also praised service members participating in Operation Enduring Freedom and the heroics of the World War II all- Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebrates the cultural traditions, ancestry, native language and unique experiences represented among the more than 30 ethnic groups from Asia and the Pacific.
The welcome and a salute to fallen Asian American and Pacific Islander heroes was presented by Claiborne D. Haughton Jr., acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for equal opportunity.
Chu and Alexander Chan, FAPAC president, participated in the presentation of the council's Military Meritorious Service Award to a service member from each service, including the Coast Guard and National Guard. The awards recognized the service members contributions to the advancement of Asian Pacific Americans and promotion of diversity and equal employment opportunity in the federal work force and the Asian Pacific American community.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Gilbert L. Canuela was honored for helping advance the civil rights of Asian Pacific Americans and other minorities through his work with the equal opportunity program while serving at the White Sands (N.M.) Missile Range.
Through his leadership and direction, the equal opportunity program educated military and civilian communities on civil and human rights, race relations and equal opportunity, the award citation states. These initiatives brought mutual awareness and sensitivity to the many cultures comprising the workforce.
A Filipino-American, Canuela is now at the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command in Alexandria, Va.
Another Filipino-American, Navy Petty Officer First Class Rolando Dionola Sto. Domingo was honored for his participation in several community projects at the Personnel Support Activity Detachment in San Diego. The projects include Christmas in July, which provides services to seniors and people with disabilities, and Operation Clean Sweep, which supports and enhances cleanliness and environmental excellence in inner-city areas.
The disbursing clerk is also a member of the Filipino- American Association of San Diego, which promotes better relationships between Filipinos and the local community.
Sto. Domingo, who is studying for a master's degree in business administration, was named Personnel Support Activity West Sailor of the Year last January and was selected as the commander in chief Pacific Fleet Shore Sailor of the Year first runner up in April.
Marine Corps Sgt. David Chang was cited for making "exemplary contributions to the Korean-American community while working as an intelligence analyst with the First Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The award citation states that Chang is a champion in promoting good relations and building harmonious environments. He spends countless hours as a children's leader in the San Diego Calvary Korean Church Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed clubs.
He has made a lasting influence on the lives of many children and his efforts have made a positive difference in the local military and civilian communities, according to the citation.
Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Florendo R. Plating, a Filipino-American, was honored for his efforts in enhancing community relations and improving working relationships between the military community at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and the local Asian Pacific American civilian communities.
A traffic manager with the 60th Aerial Port Squadron, Plating leads one of the largest traffic management workforces in the United States. Composed of 104 personnel from diverse backgrounds, his traffic management flight won the 15th Air Force and the Air Mobility Command Traffic Management Office of the Year Award for 2001.
"His leadership has helped to identify and eliminate barriers to equal opportunity for Asian Pacific Americans and other minorities in the armed forces, according to the award citation.
Cmdr. Paul Huntzinger, chief pharmacist and civil rights officer for the Coast Guard Integrated Support Command, Alameda, Calif., was recognized for organizing human relations, civil rights and sexual harassment awareness training for more than 200 people.
"He has demonstrated exemplary leadership in organizing and participating in cultural events and other forums, the award citation states. His efforts have contributed to the Coast Guard's quest to have an organization in which differences among individuals are recognized, understood and valued.
"Cmdr. Huntzinger's leadership has greatly enhanced awareness of the many accomplishments of Asian Pacific Americans, the citation notes.
Army Capt. Lori Paltridge, the state equal employment manager for the Oregon National Guard, was cited for making remarkable progress in improving the equal employment manager program in a short period of time.
For example, she published a comprehensive 5-year affirmative employment plan and has reinvigorated the equal employment opportunity counselor program by training 15 new counselors.
An armed forces color guard and an Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps unit from the 3rd U.S. Infantry at Fort Myer, Va., participated in the opening ceremonies. Stafford (Va.) High School ninth grader, Jason Farneth, 15, played taps on his trumpet in honor of Asian Pacific Americans who gave their lives in the defense of America. Farneth is a member of Boy Scout Troop 170 in Fredericksburg, Va.