Since the mid-19th century, people of Asian and Pacific Island heritage have enriched the American culture and experience.
To celebrate those contributions, the U.S. Army Financial Management Command partnered with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to host an Asian American Pacific Heritage event at the Maj. Gen. Emmett J. Bean Center here June 4.
This year’s event focused on South Korea and the Philippines.
“We’ve been rotating countries and cultural topics each year, and we always provide informational booths and food samples from vendors around the city to give them a taste of our diverse cultures,” said Andy Huynh, USAFMCOM System Support Operations organizational management chief. Huynh planned the event in coordination with the Derrick Delima, DFAS Accounts Maintenance and Control executive assistant and Asian Pacific Employment Program manager.
Approximately 6 percent of the U.S. population is of Asian or Pacific Island descent, a percentage that is almost equally represented in the federal government workforce.
While those numbers paint a generalized picture, a deeper dive into them would provide a look at a population containing a rich heritage and cultures across a full spectrum of diversity.
“It’s great to educate people about our many cultures,” said Huynh, who is Vietnamese American. “When folks hear the word ‘Asian,’ they don’t always realize there are a lot of countries in Asia and that they have different cultures, languages, dialects and views.
According to U.S. Census data, Asians of Chinese, except Taiwanese, descent make up 22.5 percent of the Asian American population. Asian Indians, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Koreans and Japanese make up 19.8 percent, 18 percent, 9.5 percent, 8.6percent and 6.8 percent, respectively.
The first Asians to come to North America were Chinese Filipinos who settled in Mexico in the 1600s, with Filipino sailors first settling in the United States around 1750, Library of Congress sources stated. The first large-scale Asian migration saw large numbers of Chinese immigrants starting to arrive in the late 1840s as the California Gold Rush took hold.
Since then, Asian Americans faced exclusion policies, racism and other hardships, according to those same sources. Despite these hardships, census data shows that 53 percent of Asian Americans more than 25 years old have a bachelor’s degree or higher and there are more than 560,000 Asian- and Pacific Islander-owned employer firms in the United States.
“This is our chance, year after year, to provide folks in the building with a deeper understanding and a way to celebrate Asian and Pacific American citizens of this country,” he added
The USAFMCOM and DFAS Civilian Welfare Fund sponsored-event this year featured booths focused on life as an Asian American, Asians in government and what it’s like to grow up as an Asian in American. There were also displays featuring Asian and Pacific Islander cultural phrases, dances and food.
“It’s critical for both leaders and employees to take time to understand the diverse cultures that make up our various teams,” said Lawrence Anyanwu, USAFMCOM Operations and Intelligence director. “I really enjoyed reading the individual accounts and views of new immigrants and learning about how they often overcome numerous challenges to become highly successful and productive citizens or residents.”
Perhaps the most popular areas of the expo were the food tables. Bulgogi sliced beef, kalbi beef ribs and kimchi were tastes featured from South Korea while roasted pork belly, lumpia egg rolls, fried rice and flan were on exhibit from Filipino cuisine.
As the late Anthony Bourdain, chef and travel documentarian, described it, “food is everything we are…it's an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma.”
The event organizers here said they couldn’t agree more.
“Food and dancing are help showcase our culture and explain who we are,” said Delima, who is of Filipino heritage and showcased his culture by wearing a Barong Tagalog, an embroidered formal shirt and considered the national dress of the Philippines.
Asian American Pacific Heritage month is generally celebrated during the month of May, but due to operational requirements, this event was held in early June to ensure maximum participation, said Huynh, who added it takes a lot of effort each year to put on such experiences.
“This took a lot of planning and meetings with DFAS,” he explained. “We have a lot of volunteers from our command and DFAS who take time out of their day to support cultural awareness.”
“We could not have put on this level of an event without partnering with USAFMCOM,” added Delima. “We used both agencies’ resources to plan this awesome event, and partnering with USAFMCOM helped us bring in all this amazing food.”
To learn more about APAH month, go to https://asianpacificheritage.gov.
A direct reporting unit to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management & Comptroller, USAFMCOM provides finance support and liaison on matters pertaining to the adequacy of finance policies, systems and reporting requirements to Army commands, component commands, direct reporting units, installations, tactical units and DFAS.
USAFMCOM also performs Army-wide, unique actions such as financial management unit technical training, electronic commerce and classified finance and accounting oversight. The command is also responsible for the delivery of Army-wide Financial Management functions including enterprise resource planning systems support, audit and compliance support, financial operations support, ERP business process standardization support and Army field financial management activities operational oversight.
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