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Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AA and NHPIs) represent us at every level of government, including at Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Washington, where Public Works Department Washington is led by Cmdr. Dennis La, the public works officer and a Vietnamese American, and Mr. John Eichstadt, the deputy public works officer and a Thai American.
Cmdr. La’s parents left Vietnam in the late 1970s following the fall of Saigon, and settled in Southern California, where he was born. Like other Asian Americans, he had to learn and find the right balance of adopting Eastern and Western cultures. He became the first in his family to earn a college degree and commission as a Navy officer. In total, he has earned three degrees through the Navy, a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from University of Southern California, an MBA from the Naval Postgraduate School, and a master’s degree in national resource strategy from the Eisenhower School of National Security and Resource Strategy. He has served in uniform for 22 years, including deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait.
Eichstadt was born in Thailand during the Vietnam War to a widowed, single mother of two children at the time. His mother married his adopted father, who was an Air Force service member. His family moved to Wisconsin, where he was the first Asian American in his school district. Like Cmdr. La, Eichstadt also had to learn and find a balance between conflicting Asian cultural beliefs and American cultural beliefs, all the while learning English. He was the first and only child in his family to serve in the military, joining the Navy out of high school as an E1 and then retiring honorably after serving more than 20 years in uniform. He also earned three college degrees, in addition to other technical military service diplomas and certificates. He has served as a civilian since 2009 when he joined NAVFAC. Often, he has been the first Asian American to serve in leadership roles at his commands.
May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which gives our Nation the opportunity to celebrate the diversity of cultures and remarkable contributions of these communities. We recognize the many immigrants, motivated by the American dream, who bravely traveled to our shores to build their lives, as well as the native peoples, who for generations dating back into the horizon of history, cultivated these lands. They have written their chapters in the great story of who we are as Americans and strengthened our country with their leadership.
Cmdr. La and Mr. Eichstadt are just two of the many AA and NHPI teammates who serve our country at NAVFAC Washington. We recognize all of their many accomplishments, and we recognize all the AA and NHPIs who help drive performance and outcomes of SYSCOM capabilities to effectively enable Fleet readiness and Marine Corps force generation.