Hispanic Heritage Month ignites history, dance lessons
September 28, 2010
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - Sombreros surrounded the tops of tables and balloons advertised a "fiesta!" at the main dining facility's overflow room at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Sept. 25. Soldiers and civilians celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month through cultural education and entertainment.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from Sept. 15-Oct. 15, and celebrates the achievements of Hispanics in the United States.
Chief Warrant Officer Sergio Diaz, a field artillery intelligence officer with Task Force Marne introduced the Hispanic culture with famous and memorable individuals. Chief Warrant Officer Sergio Diaz, a Miami, Fla., native, originally from Chile, spoke about Gabriela Mistral, a Chilean poet, educator, diplomat and feminist who was the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945, and Pablo Neruda, a Chilean communist writer and politician.
Sergeant Joshua Allen, a motor pool dispatch noncommissioned officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Support Company, Division Special Troops Battalion, 3rd ID, and a Panama City, Panama, native, also spoke to the audience about famous Hispanic athletes and celebrity figures that are well known in the Hispanic culture.
Following these educational tidbits, guest speaker Lt. Col. Jose Rafael Berrios, the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear-Explosives operations and Force Protection officer for Task Force Marne, spoke to the audience about his Family influences in the military. Lieutenant Colonel Berrios's Family history includes his uncle, then Lt. Col. Juan Cesar Cordero Davila, who served as a battalion commander for the 65th Infantry Regiment during World War II.
"My focus was an educational piece, since the theme is heritage," said Lt. Col. Berrios. He also focused on the Hispanic community, particularly in the Army and the 3rd Infantry Division.
One of the most rewarding aspects of the event that Lt. Col Berrios took away was the amount of young Soldiers attending the ceremony.
"It was very interesting to see a high number of junior Soldiers at this celebration," said Lt. Col. Berrios, a San Juan, Puerto Rico, native. "That is the reason why [Hispanic Heritage Month] is done, that's why my message was to teach and pass the torch [of education] to them."
A select number of Task Force Marne Salsa Dancers also performed various salsa dances for the crowd toward the end of the ceremony.
"It's important for us, as Hispanics, to represent our culture and to show that not only we're a part of the military, but also it's important for us to distinguish ourselves as Soldiers and Latin-Americans," said Spc. Felix Jimenez, a terrain analyst with Headquarters and Headquarters Operations Company, DSTB, 3rd ID, and a Silver Springs, Md., native. Specialist Jimenez was a salsa dancer who participated in the ceremony. "It makes me feel proud to serve as a Soldier, but also to celebrate our particular month in the year for us, the Latin culture."
Sergeant First Class Jeremy Messina, a CBRN-E noncommissioned officer with HHOC, DSTB, 3rd ID, and a Tampa, Fla., native, attended the event and felt that it provided great educational information for the audience.
"The event was well set up and organized, and was very informative on the Hispanic culture and diversity," he said. "I liked the pictures with the story lines, and the historical aspect on the culture."
The Hispanic culture represents a wide range of nationalities and backgrounds, with many Hispanic men and women serving in the Armed Forces who fought and died to defend the liberties and security of the United States in every war since the American Revolution, many of which serving before becoming American citizens.
The ceremony concluded with a formal cake cutting between the guest speakers and the Task Force Marne Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, and Commanding Sergeant Major, Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Andrews. Guests and participants stayed after the event, enjoying the cake and continuing to salsa dance.