By C. Todd Lopez
BOLLING AIR FORCE BASE, Washington, D.C. (May 31, 2007) -- Members of the Bolling Air Force Base community sampled some of the finer parts of Asian culture May 30 at the Edward H. White Community Center.
The event was the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month expo, the cap to a month-long recognition of the contributions Americans of Asian or Pacific Islander descent have made in the United States.
Hannah Grimmett and Marcus Garretson demonstrate their skills in American Kenpo Karate during the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month expo, May 30, at the Edward H. White Community Center. American Kenpo Karate is generally considered a martial art used for self-defense, and is based on Southern Chinese kung fu and other forms of martial arts that are found in Hawaii.
Col. Kurt F. Neubauer, 11th Wing commander, told expo attendees that he expected for them to take away from the event a greater understanding of the diversity of the United States and contributions of Asians and Pacific Islanders.
"When you look at a coin or any of our currency, you see 'E Pluribus Unum,'" he said. "What that means is, out of many, one. We all contribute, we are all the building blocks of American society. This is a way to show appreciation for the contributions of Asian Pacific Americans in the building of the country."
Senior Master Sgt. Robin McConnell served as the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month coordinator for the 11th Wing. She said her goal for the expo was to allow as many people as possible to sample Asian culture and at the same time, to engage and entertain them.
"I wanted to bring this to Bolling just a little bit differently," she said. "We wanted this to be a cultural expo, with a little more entertainment, and kind of keep things moving. In the past, some things kind of bogged down a little bit. We wanted people to come out, whatever it takes, even if it's their stomach, and to learn about the people they work with, and the people they serve with."
The expo kicked off with a sampling of food from several different countries in Asia, including curried coconut chicken from Thailand, chicken negimaki from Japan, spring rolls from Vietnam, pork barbeque ribs from India, lo mein from China and pork adobo from the Philippines.
Joseph McGowan, son of Chief Master Sgt. Albert McGowan, 11th Mission Support Squadron, said the food sampling was his favorite part of the expo. He also said the Asian country that interests him the most is Japan.
"The food to me is interesting, also their style and their art," he said. "They also made up Naruto, a ninja on Cartoon Network. It used to be in Japan for several years when I lived there, so I got interested in that."
The McGowan family lived at Misawa Air Base for about 22 months, beginning in 2000, Joseph said.
"There's lots of snow there, but I liked the people in the area," he said. "They are really kind."
Joseph also said he does taekwondo, a form of martial arts that comes from Korea. He said he's achieved a green belt level in the sport, and plans to use it only to protect himself.
"I learned it for self-defense," he said. "And I'm pretty good at it."
The expo also featured martial arts demonstrations, dancers, and a fashion show that featured garments from the Philippines, Korea, China, India, Hawaii and Japan.
Meeya O'Dell and Kai O'Dell, the daughter and son of Tech. Sgt. John O'Dell, 11th Contracting Squadron, modeled native youth clothing from Japan. Meeya wore a yukata, a casual form of the kimono, while Kai wore a jin bei, consisting of a cotton top and shorts.
Sergeant O'Dell, who was recently named 11th Wing Noncommissioned Officer of the Quarter, said the event was a great learning experience for his kids.
"It's really about awareness for the kids, to be aware of their culture and other people's culture as well," he said.
Sergeant O'Dell's wife, Yumi O'Dell, is a native of Japan. The two met while he was stationed at Yokota AB, near Tokyo. She said the expo was well done, but she had been worried about her children's performance as fashion models.
"I was nervous because of the kids," she said. "They did good though, I'm happy about that. I almost cried!"
Both Meeya and Kai are fluent in English and Japanese, said Yumi.
Staff Sergeant James Blakley, 11th Security Force Squadron, was a volunteer with the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month committee. His father is from the United States, and an Army veteran, and his mother is a native of Korea. He said the expo helps participants better see the diversity in the United States.
"This teaches different aspects of America," he said. "America is a melting pot, and there are many different influences and inputs that make our society better."