FORT BENNING, Ga., (May 15, 2013) -- May recognizes the achievements and history of Asian Pacific Americans. In celebration of those achievements, Fort Benning will observe Asian-American and Pacific Islander heritage at 11 a.m. May 23 in Derby Auditorium, McGinnis-Wickam Hall.

Guest speaker is Lt. Col. Oscar Diano, commander of the 2nd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Deiterning, NCOIC for the Maneuver Center of Excellence Equal Opportunity Office, said he encourages others to come out and support the ethnic observations offered by the Equal Opportunity Office.

"Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have a rich history within the United States and the Army," he said. "These ethnic observances enhance cross-cultural awareness amongst the Soldiers, civilian employees and their Families."

Asian Pacific heritage recognizes "all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island)," according to the Asian Pacific Heritage government website.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month began in 1977 with the introduction of a House bill from Reps. Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California, who wanted to dedicate the first 10 days of May to Asian Pacific American Heritage. In 1990, under President George H. W. Bush, the entire month of May was dedicated to observing the heritage, according to the website.

May was chosen to commemorate the first Japanese immigrants to come to the U.S. in May 1843 and also to mark the anniversary of the transcontinental railroad in May 1869, which was completed by mostly Chinese immigrants.