Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), was the special guest speaker May 14, at the Asian Pacific Islander Heritage month celebration held at the Fort Detrick post gymnasium. Inouye, chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations, is the senior senator and president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, making him the highest-ranking Asian American politician in American history. A joint cadre from Fort Detrick tenant organizations joined the Naval Medical Logistics Command Diversity Committee in planning the event months in advance.
"Our organization had the role of coordinating most elements of this year's event," said OS2 (SW/AW) Julius C. Wiseman III, NMLC's Security Manager. "Since I am the Diversity Committee president, I was responsible for organizing, planning, managing and executing this celebration." But Wiseman was also quick to recognize all the participants of the Diversity Committee who made this event come to life. "I received support from active duty, retired and civilian personnel post-wide at Fort Detrick," Wiseman said.
The committee members included Mateaki E. Niko, Marie-Angela Comeau, Luisa E. Gonzales, Kay Markin, Noel Cabacungan, Sgt. 1st Class Manual Venegas, LCdr. Lydia R. Robinson, NMLC's Diversity Officer, HMCS Michael J. Holmes, Julius L. Evans, NMLC's Public Affairs Officer, Gerrie McClarine, John Wohlever, Meradith R. Morina, Intawon A. Maiorana, Grace D. Schaefer, Brooks Reeves, Sheniqua L. Bush, Lt. Binh T. Nguyen, HMSA Denise Matamoro, Rachel Pardo and Meradith Morina. This year's event was themed, "Striving for Excellence in Leadership, Diversity and Inclusion," and highlighted a number of 'firsts' for Fort Detrick and for NMLC.
"This was the first time the president pro tempore has ever spoken here. The fact that he is a Medal of Honor recipient makes his presence even more significant. Because Sen. Inouye was the guest speaker, the magnitude of the event grew," Wiseman explained. "We had to coordinate with post security and the United States Secret Service. That was a first in and of itself. Also, this was NMLC's largest event with more than 400 people in attendance - and it was the first time we ever held an event in the post gym."
During the event, Inouye shared significant historical events of his life with the crowd. He discussed the importance of the Asian Pacific Heritage contributions to the U.S. military. He reflected on the history of the first Asian Immigrants. He discussed how the first Asian American's were brought to work on the American transcontinental railroad. He also discussed how his family came to America, stating that his family emigrated from Japan and settled in Hawaii in the 1920's. He discussed how his father worked in Hawaii's sugar cane plantations and made $12 dollars a month. He then began to reflect on his time served as a captain in the U.S. Army.
He discussed that at his first assignment in Mississippi, because he was Asian, he was considered white during the 1940's, a time of segregation in the southern states. In addition, he stated that his unit, the 93rd infantry, was the most decorated unit in World War II history. He discussed how he was sent to receive care, after losing his arm in battle, to an all African American hospital because he was Asian. He humorously joked about receiving 15 pints of blood from African American. Inouye quipped that he probably had 'more African American blood in him than many of the people in the audience.' He then affectionately thanked his African American brothers and sisters for saving his life.
In closing, he discussed his life as Hawaii's first congressman, and U.S. senator. He also humorously joked about being the president pro tempore, and the luxuries that comes with the position stating, "If you mess with me, you have the six gentlemen standing throughout this room to deal with," referring to the Secret Service members present. After Inouye's presentation, participants enjoyed traditional singing and dancing performances in addition to a large food sampling from the Asian Pacific region.
Naval Medical Logistics Command is the center of logistics expertise for Navy Medicine. It designs, executes and administers individualized state-of-the-art solutions to meet customer's medical materiel and healthcare needs. Fort Detrick supports a multi-governmental community that conducts biomedical research and development, medical materiel management, global medical communications and the study of foreign plant pathogens. It is home to the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command with its bio-defenseagency, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. It also hosts the National Cancer Institute-Frederick and will be home to the National Interagency Confederation for Biological Research.