Written by Sgt. Neysa Canfield
101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs
Fort Campbell, KY – Soldiers throughout the installation gathered at Wilson Theater, here, May 31st, to celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month hosted by 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Sustainment Brigade.
The observance featured martial arts performances by the Harris Holt Martial Arts Academy, culture performances by Hui Hawaii O Tenesi Hawaiian Civic Club Dance Group, the Samoan Congregation of Fort Campbell, and the 101st Screaming Eagle Dance Group, as well as Asian and Pacific Islander food samples provided by the Austin Peay State University Culinary Team.Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Duncan, equal opportunity advisor for the 101st Abn. Div. Sust. Bde., coordinated the event.
“I think it’s important that we conduct observances such as this one because as a military we are diverse,” Duncan. “We need to educate one another on the different cultures around us to make us as individuals and a force stronger.”
For Leafaina O. Yahn, an American Samoa native and former officer in the U.S. Army, the military played a big role in her life.
“She was the perfect person to speak for the event,” said Duncan. “Not only is she an American Samoan, but she also served in the military all the way up to brigade commander.”
Yahn said she was honored to speak for the event and share her story.
“Growing up on a tiny island in the middle of the [Pacific Ocean], I had big dreams,” said Yahn. “We didn’t have much, but my parents worked very hard to provide for us, and pushed us even harder to do well in school to make a better life for ourselves.”
After graduating high school, Yahn attended the United States Military Academy and served 26 years in the military and retired as colonel.
“I feel very blessed to have had great opportunities in my life and the freedom to live the American dream,” said Yahn.
“Only in America can anyone, including a pacific island girl who could barely speak English, succeed and make their dreams come true,” said Yahn. “I have taken this opportunity to help our young people [in Samoa] to educate them, so that they can someday be standing where I am.”
To conclude the observance, the 101st Screaming Eagle Dance Group performed a traditional Samoan dance called Taualuga, symbolizing the end of performances.
As the dance neared the end, Yahn took to the stage and performed with her fellow American Samoans.
“As we serve our country today, whether in or out of uniform, we must continue to build on this legacy by joining together and uniting as one voice to tell our story as Asian and Pacific Islander Americans,” said Yahn.