WIESBADEN, Germany - In addition to a cake cutting to kick off the month, the 522nd Military Intelligence Battalion hosted two events in May in honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Brig. Gen. Lapthe C. Flora, U.S. Army Africa deputy commanding general and Army Reserve integration advisor, shared his story May 28 at Clay Chapel about his arrival in the United States from Vietnam and why he chose to serve.

Flora said he remembered being asked by a Vietnam veteran why he wanted to serve in the military.

"Son, what's wrong with you?" he said. "You were born and raised in Vietnam. You survived the conflict, the war. Why do you want to join the military? What's wrong with you?"

As a child, Flora survived the Vietnam War where he lost his father, a South Vietnamese Merchant Marine. He took a job at age 11 in a factory and the home of the owner to take the burden of his care off of his mother. Along with his siblings, he lived in the jungle for several years to avoid being drafted by the communist army. In 1979 he escaped Vietnam on a wooden fishing boat across the South China Sea to Indonesia where after more than 11 months in refugee camps, he was allowed to immigrate to the United States.

"Gratitude," Flora said has been his reason for serving as a Reserve officer since 1987. It was also his reason for working hard in school and going on to become an engineer for a defense company where he just retired as a vice president after 30 years. Flora is also named on six patents for night vision goggles.

"When you went through all that and someone reaches down and gives you that helping hand," Flora said. "Thank you is definitely not enough."

Flora also discussed the importance of diversity and inclusion in fostering innovation in the U.S. The United States is a country of immigrants and the most innovative in the world, he said.

"Diversity without inclusion is meaningless," Flora said.

During a second event, May 30, Col. Derrick S. Lee, U.S. Army Europe deputy chief of staff, was the guest speaker for the observance at the fitness center; followed by live entertainment from Golden Sage Martial Arts, the Island Dancers and Army Corps of Engineer Dancers. Students from Aukamm Elementary School opened the observance with songs and dances from the Asian-Pacific region. The event also included a bouncy house, food tasting and other informational resources on the Asian-Pacific culture.

June's observance for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Month will be hosted by U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden and features a cake cutting June 4 at 11:20 a.m. at Strong Europe Café and an event June 20 at 11:30 a.m. at the Community Activity Center with a guest speaker, panel discussion and refreshments.