“I Am Beyond”: George Washington Celebrates Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Oscar Albert Moreno Jr.

PACIFIC OCEAN (May 29, 2014) – Sailors aboard the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) celebrated Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, May 29.

The theme of the celebration was “I Am Beyond,” which emphasized how Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have overcome various challenges and have strived to excel to the best of their potential.

“It is an honor to be able to speak to the crew today about my heritage,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Alfredo Bitor, aircraft launch and recovery equipment maintenance officer. “George Washington is full of different cultures and I enjoy seeing them recognized through these celebrations.”

Bitor was a guest speaker for the ceremony and spoke to the important legacy of Asian-Americans in U.S. history.

“We celebrate Asian Pacific heritage in May to commemorate important events in Asian-American and Pacific Islander history,” said Bitor. “People such as Dalip Singh Saund, the first Asian-American Congressman; Labor Organizers Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz, who championed the rights of all American workers for living wages and safe working conditions; Grace Lee Boggs, an early figure in the Civil Rights Movement, and many more are recognized for their everlasting legacy of our proud culture.”

The crew was treated to two dance performances by Sailors of Asian-American Pacific Islander descent.

“I was excited to see those dances,” said Airman Apprentice Alohiokalani Torres, from Kailua-kona, Hawaii. “I have been dancing the hula since I was five years old, and I could tell that they knew what they were doing in both the haka and hula dance. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to perform at next year’s the celebration.”

The hula dance was performed by female Sailors, while the haka dance was performed by male Sailors.

“Every movement, expression and gesture in the hula dance has a specific meaning, from representations of plants, animals and the elements, to listening, searching, sailing and so much more,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Jessica Santos, from the Philippines. “The haka dance is usually performed as part of rituals of encounter when two parties meet or when a visitor is welcomed into the community.”

After the dancers completed their performance, Capt. Greg Fenton, George Washington’s commanding officer, and Sailors of Asian-American Pacific Islander descent held a cake-cutting ceremony to bring the celebration to a close.

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