ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- The only female infantry officer in the Iowa Army National Guard talked about her trailblazing journey during the Rock Island Arsenal Asian American Pacific Islander Month observance on May 14 in Heritage Hall here.

Giang Nguyen, a WQAD reporter and wife of First Army officer, Maj. Hung Lieu, served as mistress of ceremonies during the observance, which celebrated the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the United States, both historically and today. This includes nearly 10,000 Purple Heart recipients, eight Presidential Unit Citations, and 21 Medal of Honor recipients.

"Asian-American and Pacific Islander Soldiers and civilians have contributed greatly over the years to our Army," said Maj. Gen. Chris Gentry, First Army deputy commanding general for support. "Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government placed many Japanese-Americans in internment camps. Despite this, thousands stepped forward to swear allegiance and serve our nation. President Harry Truman summed up their World War II experience by saying, 'You fought not only the enemy but you fought prejudice, and you've won."

Today, nearly 60,000 Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent serve in the Army. That includes the observance's keynote speaker, 2nd Lt. Trang Jorgenson, who was born in Vietnam and moved to the United States at age 6. She was so convinced about pursuing a military career that she graduated basic training a year before she finished high school. At the time, however, her dreams of a combat arms career were prohibited by federal law. When those barriers came down, Jorgenson attended infantry basic officer leader school and she now serves as a rifle platoon leader in the Iowa Army National Guard's 1-168th Infantry Regiment.

"At First Army, we have a mission of partnering with the Reserve Component to enable those great formations to stand ready to deploy as needed," Gentry noted. "So it is a great day for us when we are able to highlight one of these Reserve Component Soldiers. She entered officer candidate school in 2016 and as soon as it was announced that all military occupational specialties were open to women, she was able to realize her greatest Army dream of commissioning in the infantry. Jorgenson is a testament to hard work, tenacity, and the can-do attitude we value in the Army."

It also highlights that the Army's greatest asset is its people: Intelligent, adaptable, and professional Soldiers who serve in an all-volunteer force featuring all races, genders, and creeds.

Jorgenson told audience members that she is "living my childhood dream as a rifle platoon leader and I fought tooth-and-nail to get to where I am today. Every time I watched the recruitment video of Soldiers jumping out of airplanes or kicking down doors, I wanted to do be part of something bigger than myself. I wanted to be more than a Vietnamese girl who was told how to smile, how to be a good wife in the future, how to cook, and how to clean. Even then, I envisioned myself breaking through barriers."