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Students from Keali’i’s School of Polynesian Dance perform for the crowd at Fort Sill’s annual Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month Luncheon on Thursday.

Asian Pacific Islander culture, contributions celebrated at Sill

First Army Division West Command Sgt. Major Patrick K. Akuna Jr., a native of Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, hailed the accomplishments of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders when he spoke at Fort Sill's annual Heritage Month event in their honor on Thursday.

This year's theme was "I Am Beyond," a phrase that captures how Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have always sought to excel beyond challenges that have limited equal opportunity in America.

Keali'i's School of Polynesian Dance

Maj. Marny Skindrud, executive officer for 168th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB), played a dual role at the event. In addition to serving as mistress of ceremonies, she introduced herself by saying: "Aloha! My name is Kamalie, and I am a haumana or dancer with Keali'i's School of Polynesian Dance, right here in Lawton. I have been dancing with the group for 11 years, so during the course of this luncheon, you'll get to see a few of our costumes that we use when we perform dances from various Polynesian islands.

"The students of Keali'i's are family members of retired soldiers and soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery (FA); 3rd Battalion, 13th FA, and the 77th Army Band. The dancers themselves also represent 168th BSB, and a former dancer just helped lead the first Hawaiian hauakoa, or 'Dance of the Warrior,' which was conducted during the 25th Infantry Division's change of command in Hawaii this month," Skindrud said.

"In a true representation of diversity, the dancers are not just Hawaiian and Polynesian. They are Caucasian, English, Puerto Rican, Native American, Apache, Comanche and Pueblo Indian from New Mexico, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, African American, South Korean, Filipino, Indian and Norwegian," she said.

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