FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- This month the nation recognizes the contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islanders to the history of the United States. This year's Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month theme is diversity leadership = expanding opportunity: an imperative for America.

"Like America itself, the AAPI community draws strength from the diversity of its many distinct cultures -- each with vibrant histories and unique perspectives to bring to our national life," said President Barrack Obama in his AAPI proclamation. "Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders have helped build, defend, and strengthen our Nation -- as farm workers and railroad laborers; as entrepreneurs and scientists; as artists, activists, and leaders of government. They have gone beyond, embodying the soaring aspirations of the American spirit."

Command Sgt. Maj. Walter Tagalicud, senior noncommissioned officer for 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans", 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), exemplifies this theme not only as a leader, but also as a person who has lived a life that embodies the concept of opportunity.

As a young boy, Tagalicud grew up in a small village in the Philippines in the mid-1960s with little access to most amenities.

"Just think about a small farm neighborhood," Tagalicud said. "Where I grew up, there was no electricity and the roads and highways were all still dirt."

In 1980 he came to the United States. His first impression of the U.S. was overwhelming he said, but he quickly adapted and would soon go on to pursue his childhood dream.

"Growing up, I always wanted to join the military," Tagalicud said. "My father was in the Air Force and I wanted to follow in his footsteps ever since I was a young kid."

From his humble beginning as a new infantry recruit at Fort Benning, Ga., to his current position as one of the highest ranks in the U.S. Army's NCO structure, he said that he is inspired by all of the people he has met during his time in the military.

"I'm inspired by all the people I have met throughout the years," he said. "I'm inspired by Soldiers and leaders and all the things they have taught me throughout the years and talent that they bring."

Tagalicud said he is happy for the opportunities the Army has provided him and that he is proud to be a member of an organization where anyone can excel regardless of their education or background.

"Our society as a whole is like a melting pot where we bring all these great talented Soldiers and leaders together, which makes us a better Army," he said. "The military is a great place because everybody is equal; everybody is one color. The Army wouldn't be like it is today without these different backgrounds and cultures."

After 27 years of service, Tagalicud reflected on the service he has given his country and the opportunities that he has had.

"After serving 27 years, I just look back on where I was as a kid and where I am now," he said. "I'm just humbled everyday and I enjoy coming to work knowing that what I've done might be hard to some people, but in the last 27 years, it's been easy for me and if the Army will let me, I'll give it another 27."