Q-West celebrates Hispanic heritage month
October 17, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION Q-WEST, Iraq - Two units used Hispanic foods, poetry, music, dancing and a guest speaker to teach troops about the importance of national Hispanic heritage month.
The 15th Special Troops Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Wagonmasters and 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms, hosted a Hispanic heritage month luncheon Oct. 10 at the main dining facility at Contingency Operating Location Q-West, Iraq.
Col. Larry Phelps, commander of the 15th Sustainment Brigade, danced the Bachata, a hip-swinging dance from the Dominican Republic, to celebrate the event.
"One of our primary rules is to work hard, play hard," he said.
By congressional law and yearly presidential proclamation, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 is Hispanic heritage month. Sgt. Railin Isaac, orderly room noncommissioned officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 15th Special Troops Battalion, 15th Sust. Bde., and a Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, native, read the presidential proclamation to the luncheon attendees:
"I call upon public officials, educators, librarians, and all the people of the United Sates to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs," she said.
Isaac and Sgt. Sandylane Rodriguez, a movement and chemical, biological radiological and nuclear NCO and a Humacao, Puerto Rico, native; Sgt. Elizabeth Whitehead, personnel clerk and a Los Angeles native; Sgt. 1st Class Andrea Parris, paralegal NCO and a Lancaster, Pa., native; all with the 15th, did a dance routine incorporating several styles of Latin dance and music while wearing colorful, traditional, Latin dresses.
They were later joined by Alex Cruz, logistics warehouse contractor and a Honduran Los Angeles native. Cruz teaches a free salsa dancing class 8:00 p.m. every Friday at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation building here.
The group took turns dancing to a wide array of music before picking senior officers and enlisted Soldiers from the audience to dance with.
Guest speaker Master Sgt. Francisco A. Morales, liaison officer with the 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 15th Sust. Bde., and a Dominican Republic native, spoke about "embracing the fierce urgency of now," a Martin Luther King Jr. quote and the theme of this year's celebration.
"This year's theme recognizes the strength and hard work of Hispanic Americans and how their contributions make our nation more vibrant and diverse," Morales said.
He gave a brief history of the observance, which he said started in 1968 as Hispanic heritage week and later became an annual 30-day celebration beginning Sept. 15. Morales said this year's theme was a call to action, to bring equity to Hispanics in federal government positions.
The event's program had examples of Hispanic Americans who have broken barriers, including Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic American Supreme Court justice, retired Lt. Gen. Edward Baca, former National Guard Bureau chief, Cesar Estrada Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers of America, and Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic female astronaut.
"We are so close now to making history," Morales said in closing. "Let us not look back at this moment and say we had the opportunity, but we did not act. Let us not, in years to come, say we acted - but too late. Let us instead, together, complete this task of generations, by embracing the 'fierce urgency of now,' today."
Soldiers and civilians alike volunteered to make the event possible.
The dancers' dresses were handmade largely by Spc. Gonzalo Medina, a laundry, shower and textile specialist with the 506th Quartermaster Company, 515th Sustainment Battalion, 15th Sust. Bde., during his free time, the dancers' said.
Medina, a Bayamon, Puerto Rico, native, also managed the music and slideshow presentations for the event.
"I'm Hispanic," he said. "I've got to represent wherever I go."
Not all of the volunteers were Hispanic however. Parris said she volunteered because she knew how to dance.
Maj. John B. Herd, MWR director and a Florence, Miss., native, said he was pleased with the volunteer support.
"Having lived in South America for several years, my hope for the event was that it would bring forth all the rich aspects of the Hispanic culture that many may never experience; art, language, natural beauty and cuisine," Herd said. "The event far exceeded my expectations thanks to the time and talent of many volunteers."