Fort Leonard Wood held its annual Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Observance Friday at the Pershing Community Center.

Chaplain (Capt.) Thomas Robinson delivered the invocation at the event, thanking all Asian-American and Pacific Islander "brothers and sisters who have helped shape and defend this great nation."

"I pray, Lord, that you would use these acts of service and sacrifice to inspire us as we continue to serve and contribute to the betterment of all humanity," he said.

Hosted by the 1st Engineer Brigade, the event featured a performance by the Polynesian Dance Troupe, which included the Maori haka dance.

Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, commanding general of the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood, was invited to participate in the dance as a guest of honor. Command Sgt. Maj. James Breckinridge joined her.

Dr. Anne Maurina, a clinical psychologist practicing in St. Robert, was the keynote speaker. Raised in South Korea, she is the daughter of a Korean War combat medic. Her focus now is on strengthening marriages and helping military families.

Maurina wrote her doctoral dissertation on mental health issues affecting Korean military wives.

Her speech cited numerous statistics, most of which suggested a recent shift in societal demographics for Asians and Asian Americans.

"Many Asians choose to live on the Pacific Coast and in major American cities, but that's changing," she said. "Right here in Missouri, census data shows the number of Asians in our state grew by 90 percent from 2000 to 2015, and our county, Pulaski County, has one of the highest percentages of Asians of any county in Missouri."

Maurina corrected misconceptions about Asian Americans and equivocated its culture to that of the military.

"A focus on academics isn't what unifies Asian cultures," she said. "What is common among the different Asian cultures is an emphasis on team-building, working as a group, and uniting to accomplish a common goal."

"In that area, Asian culture and American military culture have much in common with each other and those commonalities contribute to the success of both," she added.

She concluded her speech in line with the theme of the event, "Unite our mission by engaging each other."

"We who live in America, perhaps the most diverse nation on Earth, have the privilege of learning wisdom from each other," she said.