Soldiers celebrate Caribbean influences on U.S., world
June 21, 2010
Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq - Caribbean-American Heritage Month brought reggae music and Salsa dancing to Task Force Marne Soldiers at Contingency Operating Base Speicher during a ceremony, June 18.
In an educational and highly entertaining fashion, the Caribbean was broken down by its Spanish, French and English populations. Speakers, either from or related to individuals in Puerto Rico, Haiti or Jamaica, gave an overview of the islands by highlighting a popular or influential politician, entertainer and athlete.
The prominent public figures who have made strides and contributions to the U.S. and around the world included: actress, Zoe Saldana; retired and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell, and musician Wyclef Jean.
"We have people from many different areas all coming together to do the same job," said Sgt. 1st Class Luis Matias, the Division Main joint network node platoon sergeant from 3rd Signal Company, Division Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, and a native of Puerto Rico. "We are trying to pay tribute to where we come from."
After each speaker, various Soldiers performed songs and dances from their native homeland. Sergeant Mervin Leonor, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear noncommissioned officer with Company C, 209th Aviation Support Battalion, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, and a Newark, N.J., native, performed a Spanish love song; and Soldiers from multiple units on COB Speicher performed Spanish dances including the Bachata.
"It was great, like being in the Caribbean," said Suzette Owens, a Jamaican native, who hosted the ceremony. "It was rehearsed, but it was not rehearsed, so you felt like you were in the islands. It was like a 30-minute vacation from work."
The TF Marne and 3rd ID senior enlisted advisor, Command Sergeant Major Jesse Andrews went to the Montego bay Jamaica during his Environmental Morale Leave and he said what he witnessed during the ceremony was very accurate to what he experienced on vacation.
"The Army is a very diverse organization," explained Command Sgt. Maj. Andrews. "We want to make sure our Soldiers are imbued with the different cultures so we know how to relate to each other on a daily basis."
He also added that a trip to the Caribbean would be worth it. "It's an experience," Command Sgt. Maj. Andrews said, "you will never forget."