SBD 1 celebrates Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

  • Published
  • By By Kristian DePue, Staff Writer
  • Space Base Delta 1 Public Affairs

Space Base Delta 1 rounded out May with two Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month cultural celebrations for Schriever Space Force Base and Peterson SFB on May 20, and May 24, 2022, respectively.

“Asian American and Pacific Islander [Heritage] Month is a chance to showcase our culture, background and traditions,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Sharon Lepou, North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command senior enlisted leader.

“AAPI Heritage Month offers the opportunity to talk about how far the AAPI community has come — and not just within the military, but in government and local community as well,” continued Lepou. “We have a lot more leadership and involvement, compared to 40 or 80 years ago.”

Lepou, who is primarily Samoan, but is also of Chinese descent, was the lead planner for Peterson SFB’s AAPI cultural celebration at the Peterson Chapel.

The event followed Schriever SFB’s AAPI cultural celebration held at Bennie’s Breakroom which was hosted on-site by U.S. Space Force 1st Lt. Camaren Ly and U.S. Space Force 2nd Lt. Melody Wolfson. The two technicians, both with the 1st Space Operations Squadron have ties to the AAPI heritage. Ly is half-Vietnamese and Wolfson’s husband is half-Taiwanese.

“We had a couple roundtables earlier in the month. People feel when a heritage month doesn't apply to them — like Black History Month, Women's History Month, or Asian American [and] Pacific Islander [Heritage] Month — that they can't, or shouldn't, participate,” said Ly.

“Everyone is welcome to all of the heritage months,” continued Ly. “It's learning about other cultures, their practices, families and what they celebrate and what they love and enjoy. For me, Asian American and Pacific Islander [Heritage] Month is a time to talk about what it means to be Asian American, and to share with other people what that means to me and to other people.”

The food samples at Schriever SFB were cleaned out quick. The provisions, in addition to matcha tea, included Filipino ube cookies, Taiwanese boba tea, Filipino chicken pancit and Vietnamese banh mi.

Peterson SFB’s event had on-site food trucks parked outside of Peterson Chapel — the options included Asian fusion and Hawaiian offerings. Items like lumpia, the Filipino version of springs rolls; and Hawaiian-style kalbi, Korean short ribs, were served to guests.

The cultural celebration featured guest speakers and a performance of the Taualuga by event organizer, Lepou — adorned in the festive regalia of a taupou, a ceremonial hostess. The Taualuga is a traditional Samoan dance, considered the apex of Samoan performance art and the centerpiece of their culture.

Nathan Watanabe, a campaign planner at NORAD and USNORTHCOM and adjunct professor at Colorado State University Pueblo, set up a display of historical military memorabilia for both celebrations.

“My display was of uniforms, weapons and equipment of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated unit in World War II composed primarily of AJAs or Americans of Japanese Ancestry, to use period terminology,” said Watanabe. “The unit is the most highly decorated unit for its size and period of service.”

Watanabe is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and a former assistant professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he taught military history from 2006 – 2008 and again in 2014 – 2016.

Watanabe is Yonsei — a Japanese diasporic term to specify the great-grandchildren of Japanese immigrants. The word means “fourth generation.”

“My father’s grandfather was the first to come to Hawaii in the early 1900s,” said Watanabe.

Lepou, who planned the Peterson event, believes that celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is just as pertinent as ever, if not more so: “It’s very important that we use the month of May as an opportunity to educate about who we are and what AAPI culture is all about.

For information about upcoming cultural celebrations and events, contact Space Base Delta 1’s Diversity and Inclusion Coordinators at (719) 567-3346.