Virginia Guard celebrates 4th annual Diversity Day

The Virginia National Guard’s Equal Opportunity Office celebrates its 4th annual Diversity Day June 27 at Mullins Armory in Sandston, Va. The event honored the culture of Asian Pacific Islanders and was attended by Virginia Guard senior leaders, Soldiers and employees. The Hawaiian Entertainment Company provided entertainment and the performers invited several Soldiers to come forward and participate in a dance. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

SANDSTON, Va. – Senior leaders, Soldiers and employees from the Virginia National Guard celebrated their 4th annual Diversity Day June 27 at the Mullins Armory in Sandston, Va. The focus of this year’s diversity event was on the culture of Asian Pacific Islanders.

The event was hosted by the Virginia National Guard’s Equal Opportunity Office and aimed to educate attendees on the importance of celebrating and recognizing the diversity found in the Guard, and on recognizing that even through differences in upbringing, gender, race or ethnic identity, similarities still exist between individuals in the Virginia Guard’s diverse force.

“At each event you learn something new about someone’s culture which helps you to understand the differences that we have in our organization, which in the end I think brings us closer together,” said Capt. Amelia Coppage, State Equal Employment Manager for the Virginia National Guard.

Maj. Kurt Kobernik, executive officer from the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team, was on hand as the guest speaker and spoke about his experiences growing up in Hawaii. “It was good. It’s one of those things I don’t often get an opportunity to share and I really enjoyed it,” Kobernik said.

“I think it’s really important for the Virginia National Guard to be promoting diversity because we have a lot of different cultures that make up the Virginia National Guard,” Kobernik said. “I also think that as we continue to support the commonwealth and as we continue to deploy overseas we need to have a sensitivity to other cultures. We need to have an appreciation for the difference that everyone else has.”

The event also included entertainment from the Hawaiian Entertainment Company, who impressed the crowd with traditional Asian Pacific dances. The entertainers also asked members of the audience to come forward and learn both a traditional men’s dance and a traditional women’s dance. Kobernik was among those selected from the audience to participate.

“It was fun. I hadn’t done that in a long time and it brought back some great memories of me as a kid,” said Kobernik.

Along with the entertainment and an opening National Anthem sang by the Greater Richmond Chorus, the event also included a sampling of Asian Pacific Islander food.

“The event was outstanding,” said Coppage. “Everyone who had comments to make had very good comments. Everything was outstanding and overall the performances were great.”

To view photos from the event, visit:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157630317219104/