FORT BENNING, Ga., (May 29, 2013) -- Fort Benning observed the Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage observance May 23. The guest speakers were Amata Coleman Radewagen, former member of the president's advisory commission on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders from 2001 to 2004, and Lt. Col. Oscar Diano, the commander of 2nd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment.

Radewagen mentioned that it was not only Asian-American and Pacific Islander Month, but also National Military Month.

"Thank you for your service to our nation, to make it possible for us to continue to live the American dream," she said. "I'm also proud to say that I come from a Family with a strong military background."
From her grandparents and parents to her siblings and nephews, her Family's history in the military "will continue for many years to come," she said.

Diano's father lived in the Philippines and joined the Navy in 1968. Growing up as a dependent, he said he often ran into others of similar background even until this day.

"Being of Asian descent … instills in you a strong sense of community because that community is wherever you go. We grew up as part of a community no matter where we were," he said.

Radewagen recalled being asked if she considered herself more of a Samoan or an American and she said she felt that she was both.

"President Reagan used to say, what makes us different is that an outsider could not live in France and be a Frenchman nor Germany and be a German -- but anyone could come to the United States and be an American," she said.

The duality that Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders feel, she said, "exists comfortably, side-by-side within us. How beautiful it is to live in a country that accepts the duality and also does not differentiate people according to race, ethnicity, culture or religion. And this is especially true in the military, which prides itself on being the great equalizer."

"Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, much like every culture present in our Army, bring more than just a different physical appearance," Diano said. "We bring our culture, our heritage and our sense of community and we proudly share our culture of inclusion."