Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Class Tomas Compian

SOUTH CHINA SEA- Sailors from USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) Multi-Cultural Heritage Committee (MCHC) held a ceremony observing Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the ship’s hangar bay, May 29.

Sailors gathered to see performances highlighting the historical and cultural contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The observance was themed “Working Together, Embrace Differences, Build Legacies.” The ceremony gave Sailors the opportunity to come together to honor, recognize and celebrate the leadership, dedicated service and contributions of all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

“I think it’s important because it shows diversity throughout the ship,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Wilisoni Vasukilakeba, from Suva, Fiji. “The Navy is made up of all different cultures and unity brings us together and it’s important to have a special month to look back to our heritage.”

The MCHC members conveyed Asian American and Pacific Islander contributions to society through dance and music.

The first performance was the Haka, a traditional Maori chant used to instill fear into enemies before battle.

“To me the Haka is a show of power, a warrior thing, a chant we scare our opponent with,” said Vasukilkeba. “Presently, we perform the Haka before sports, like rugby games, to show them we are ready to go.”

Aviation Structural Mechanic 3rd Class Maile Barnard, from San Diego, performed in the Samoan and Tahitian female dance routines.

“This has allowed me to be able to get in touch with people who share similar views and cultures and learn more about who I am and my Hawaiian heritage,” said Barnard.

The observance concluded with an invitation to the audience to join the performers during the Tahitian dance routine.

“[The ceremony] gave us a chance to make new friendships, new connections, to be a part of older cultures and learn something that goes back so many generations that brings everyone together,” said Barnard.

Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, John C. Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.

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