Run celebrates heritage
October 4, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 4, 2012) -- The Fort Rucker Physical Fitness Facility hosted its annual "Gate-to-Gate" run Sept. 29 to celebrate the Army's cultural diversity as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Runners of all ages and fitness levels ran the 4.2 miles from the Ozark Gate to the Daleville Gate, with 282 completing the run out of 295 registered participants, according to Kristi Fink, fitness programs manager at Fortenberry-Colton Physical Fitness Facility.
"The event was a huge success! The biggest Gate to Gate we have ever had. Last year we had 215 participants, so that number was blown out of the water," she said.
The event seeks to bring cultural awareness to the community through the mingling of the different runners.
"As a class we all came out to support Hispanic Heritage Month. As an Army, we are diversity. A big part of what we are is unifying different cultures and coming together as a single element to work together. So, it is important to embrace all the different cultures that make up the melting pot of the Army. Doing things like [the 5k] draws attention and supports that," said Warrant Officer Candidate Tommy Glasgow.
Supporting different ethnic backgrounds and educating people on cultural differences is one way some Soldiers feel the equal opportunity policies are helping people understand that being culturally diverse is what makes the military strong.
"Being Hispanic myself this run hits a little closer to home for me," said Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Redondo, NCO Academy, adding that it was nice to get out and see others in the community come together to support tolerance and understanding.
"Cultural events, not just this run, open people's eyes to how diverse our Army really is. Everyone in the Army is green, but we all have different backgrounds and upbringings, so it brings us all together at least to show what others believe in and where they come from," he said.
One younger participant felt that he could finish the run without any difficulty, but still understood the importance behind the run.
"My mom was participating and I wanted to help support her. This is the first time I have done a 5k, but I'm not nervous. I think I can take it on, no problem. It's good to bring all different types of cultures together, because it's nice to have everyone united, even if it only lasts through the run," said Jeffrey Palonarez, military Family member.
David Seymour, who finished first place overall, said it was a great race.
"It's nice coming in as the first runner. Last year I got third place, so it feels good claiming first. It gives me motivation to run the 10k in Washington, D.C. This race is such a motivational event on post. It's a great event all around," he said.
Each competitor had a different reason for running, but Irma Wong felt it was the pride in their ancestral history that made many people hit the pavement.
"I run because it is fun, but I am representing my Hispanic heritage by running today. Everyone feels proud of where they come from and it is very rewarding for most of us, especially me, to participate in events that bring awareness to [different cultures]," she said.
Everyone from 7-year-old girls to 70-year-old men finished the run. One particular runner, 70-year-old Winston Howell, has participated in more than 1,383 races--12 being marathons.
"I have run this race so many times I can't even remember. I love running here on Fort Rucker because there are a lot of hills," he said.
Hispanic music played at the finish line where Family members, Col. Stuart J. McRae, Fort Rucker garrison commander, friends and fellow teammates cheered on and welcomed runners to the finish line.
"I think it's great to celebrate different cultures. We are so diverse and that's what makes us such a great country. The runners know whether they win or lose that they are supporting a good cause," said Fink.