AAPI heritage, culture celebrated at AAFB

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Miyah Gray
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Airmen from Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, participated in multiple events throughout May to recognize diverse cultures, ethnicities and their contributions to both the United States and the military.

The month-long observation, which included a Bataan Death March Memorial 5k, providing leis to drivers at the base’s front gate, an AAPI craft event, and a “Taste of Asia” event, gave Airmen an opportunity to unite and learn about the cultures and ethnic histories of others.

The month started off with Lei Day, a tradition native to Hawaii where leis are given and received to symbolize giving a part of oneself. Volunteers from the 97th Air Mobility Wing handed out leis at the main gate to Airmen entering the base.

“I think it’s important to recognize that the United States is made up of so many different ethnicities and cultures that come together to make it what it is,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Sakai, 97th Civil Engineer Squadron unaccompanied housing superintendent. “One aspect about our culture that I feel strongly about is our sense of family, no matter where we are.”

Airmen on base also took part in the Bataan Death March Memorial, a 5k run to honor those who lost their lives during the death march in World War II.

“Two of my grandfathers were part of the Bataan Death March,” said Senior Airman Antonette Delos Santos, 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron aerial operations journeyman. “They endured extreme hunger, heat and exhaustion while being beaten and tortured. When the American forces retaliated and won, they were finally liberated. (My grandfathers) are one of the main reasons why I will always look back to where I came from. They’re one of the reasons why I'm always proud of my heritage.”

Later events included an AAPI craft event hosted by the Japan-America Society of Oklahoma, which included teaching the three styles of Japanese calligraphy, origami and the art of paper cutting.

To close out the month, Sakai said Club Altus hosted a “Taste of Asia” event to showcase the different ethnic foods that come from AAPI backgrounds and give people a chance to experience something different from their normal cuisine.

“This month is a time for me to reflect on my identity as part of the AAPI community and share our culture with the rest of the world,” said Delos Santos. “It’s a time for us to celebrate our diversity and to remember our history.”