Fort Bragg holds all inclusive Heritage Day
Ladies pose in the traditional dress of Panama before taking the stage to dance during the Fort Bragg Heritage Day celebration Saturday.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Servicemembers hail from different cultures and ethnicities to serve alongside each other in the armed forces. On Saturday, those cultures and ethnicities met in the inaugural Heritage Day celebration held in the Mini Mall parking lot on Reilly Road.

Fort Bragg's Equal Opportunity Office sponsored the all-inclusive Heritage Day. According to a press release, the idea was conceived by Lt. Col. Rafael Boyd, program manager for the Fort Bragg Equal Opportunity and Human Relations Directorate.

"Throughout the year, we recognize minorities," Boyd said. "We needed a format to recognize everybody in unity and this is the format."

Sergeant 1st Class Dean Puzon and his wife, Stacy; and sons, Nicholas and Andrew spent the day taking in the celebration's sights and tastes.

Puzon, of the 1st Theater Support Command, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, shared a bite of pupusas with Andrew, 10. Pupusas is a traditional Salvadoran dish similar to a corn tortilla.
Sisters Ashley and Rachel Diaz served the dish, topped with cheese, pork, cabbage and tomato sauce.

"It was good bread," said Andrew. "It tasted kind of like a taco."

"I like the cabbage and the sauce mixture together. It gives it a really good flavor," added Dean, who stressed the importance of attending Heritage Day. "Understanding who each other is, is what our country is made up of," said Dean, a native of Silverdale, Wash. who is finishing his 20th year of service."

About 1400 people attended the multi-cultural observance, Fort Bragg officials said. The event was so well received that it will be become a yearly event, Boyd said.

Places of interest that were represented included India, Belize, Turkey, El Salvador, Japan, Egypt, Panama, the Ukraine and native America.

Entertainment ranged from Okinawa, Panamanian, hula and Native-American dancing to Puerto Rican and Cuban percussion performances, as well as Scottish bagpipe music.

Many people came forward eagerly to showcase their talents, from musical performances to preparing culinary delights, Boyd said. About 20 different countries, nationalities and ethnicities were represented.

Dorla Martinez shared traditional Belizean dishes such as curry chicken, coconut tarts, rice and beans and fried plaintains with those who attended.

"When I hear international, I want to get involved," said Martinez, who explained that she has traveled extensively as the spouse of an Army retiree. "One thing I recognize here in Fayetteville is that this is a melting pot."

Sharmila Udyavar brought the Indian flag, door decorations, jewelry, embroidered art and other Indian treasures to Heritage Day.

"We want to educate the Soldiers on what our culture is all about," she said.

For Kristen Mobley, the day provided another opportunity to involve son, Daniel, 4, in post activities, she said.

"They do all kinds of stuff on post and we like to get him out to see some of it," said Mobley, the wife of a Fort Bragg Soldier.

Amanda Pulparambil, 3, may not be ready to learn about different cultures, but she could enjoy the sights of Heritage Day, said her father, Staff Sgt. John Pulparambil of 97th Civil Affairs Battalion.

"I want to show her things that's going on," he said.

She smiled at the Black Daggers freefall, which kicked off the celebration.

Heritage Day is important to Fort Bragg if only because these Soldiers serve beside each other everyday, Boyd said.

"The fact of the matter is, the equal opportunity program includes everyone from all walks of life so that the military, as an institution, can foster respect for one another despite differences in background, whether they are cultural, biographical or any reason," he said.

Page last updated Fri September 3rd, 2010 at 14:49