HONOLULU -- Kyser Auditorium at Tripler Army Medical Center was standing room only as staff piled in to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, May 17.

This year's theme is "Striving for Excellence in Leadership, Diversity and Inclusion." The national observance recognizes more than 50 ethnic groups and more than 100 different languages from Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Being in the Pacific region and embedded in Asian and Pacific Islander cultures since 1907 when the hospital was first constructed has allowed Tripler to become a diverse institution with numerous Asian American and Pacific Islander staff.

The audience was engaged from the moment the observance began as they were greeted by Annie Dela Pena, Emergency Department, TAMC, who performed a traditional Hawaiian welcome dance called Welena. This was just one of six dances performed from five different Asian and Pacific Island cultures.

The Pacific Regional Medical Command G4 and TAMC Chief of Logistics, Col. Alex Zotomayor, was invited to be guest speaker for the event. Zotomayor, along with his parents and brother, who were all born in the Philippines, migrated to the U.S. in 1970.

Zotomayor said he was unsure about speaking because he was raised in Chicago and does not even speak much of the Filipino language anymore, so he was concerned about his credibility. As he pondered the theme of the observance, it became clear that he was perfectly qualified to speak.

"As a colonel, as a Filipino, and as a Soldier in the United States Army, I am a living example of leadership, diversity and inclusion," Zotomayor said. "The type of leader that I am and the type of person that I am did not start when I put on the green suit. It started with (my family).

Zotomayor attributes his character to his family and upbringing. He described many of the qualities that his mother, father and brother have that closely relate to military values.

"Integrity. Do what's right, is a basic lesson that my mother taught (my brother and I)," Zotomayor said. "Duty. My father's place of business was in downtown Chicago (and he traveled) an hour every day without complaint because he was thankful for his employment."

"(These qualities) form the basis of LRDSHIP (and the Army Values)," Zotomayor explained. "I honor my family when I take upon their strengths, their attributes and the best things they have to offer and make them my own. They form the basis of who I am and the leadership foundation that I now exhibit."

Col. Glenda Lock, deputy commander for nursing, PRMC and TAMC, presented Zotomayor with a certificate of appreciation and thanked him for sharing his family's personal story for the event.

"We know that diversity is really at the bedrock and is the foundation of the strength of us as a nation," Lock said. "It is a wonderful thing to be part of this organization and that we, as an organization, are reflective of the people we serve."