USS CARTER HALL, At sea --
Marines and sailors are drawn from across the height and depth of the United States, from the cities to the farms, from coast to coast, and from beyond those coasts in some cases.
May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, celebrating Americans from the islands and nations of the world’s largest ocean. Aboard the USS Carter Hall, the Marines and sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the ship’s permanent personnel celebrated this with a cookout and a cultural day, with food, music, and demonstrations highlighting the heritage of Pacific Islanders.
“The month is celebrating the heritage of people with Asian and Pacific Islander backgrounds and sharing that culture with other people,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Heather Soloria, USS Carter Hall medical officer from Chesapeake, Va. “There are a lot of people in the military and the United States who come from Asian or Pacific Islander backgrounds, and it’s important to share their contributions to society.”
“I thought it was a very well executed event. The food was outstanding,” said Command Master Chief Petty Officer Chris Fitzgerald, USS Carter Hall command master chief from Jacksonville, N.C. “It was nice to see everyone pitching in.”
The celebration included examples of food from some of the nations scattered around the Pacific Rim, as well as speeches about the varying cultures that exist in the same countries. “A lot of us grow up and we’re not significantly exposed to those cultures,” said Fitzgerald. Marines and sailors also had the opportunity to put on demonstrations, including a brief performance of the Haka, a traditional Māori war dance, popularized by its use preceding rugby games by certain New Zealand teams. “I think people had as much fun watching as the people had performing,” said Soloria.
Many Marines and sailors had the opportunity to talk about their ancestry, to educate others about facets of cultures they may be less than familiar with. Lance Cpl. Justinkainoa Kealanahele, an amphibious assault vehicle crewman with Battalion Landing Team 3/2, 26th MEU, and a Honolulu, Hawaii, native, played the ukulele and talked about growing up in the islands. “Some people ask what it’s like on Hawaii, so I tell them about it. I try to tell them about what really happens,” said Kealanahele. “They really don’t know much about my culture. It can be a little frustrating, but you kind of learn to deal with it.”
The cookout helped open a lot of eyes aboard the Carter Hall. “You always walk away from one of these learning something new,” said Fitzgerald.