By Sgt. 1st Class Vincent AbrilDecember 13, 2017
USAG DAEGU, South Korea - The 168th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 65th Medical Brigade, hosted the Area IV National Hispanic Heritage Month observance Sept. 29 at the Camp Henry Theater, Camp Henry, Daegu.
Area IV Soldiers, Department of Defense civilians and family members, attended the event which highlighted the heroism of the storied 65th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Those in attendance watched a short video that depicted the unforgivable conditions of the Korean War and the vital role the 65th played during what has been dubbed "The Forgotten War."
"It is regarded as one of the most highly-decorated units in the history of the U.S. military," said Command Sgt. Maj. Juan A. Abreu, United States Army Garrison Daegu's senior enlisted advisor, and guest speaker for the observance. "This is the first Hispanic unit, and the sole unit from the Korean War, to receive the Congressional Gold Medal."
Abreu, a native of Monticello, New York, and of Puerto Rican roots, explained how the service of many Hispanic Americans, not just Puerto Ricans, have made our military better, and how our nation's diversity is what sets us apart.
"America's diversity has always been one of our greatest strengths as people of different backgrounds and cultures who share unique experiences and perspectives to benefit all," Abreu said. "It's the spice that makes our melting pot, this stew we call the American experience, uniquely ours, uniquely us."
After Abreu's remarks, a Soldier proud of his roots and his profession, read an original piece, which he wrote himself.
"Whether you claim Chicano, Tejano, Latino, Hispanic or wherever your family is from, it all starts from the heart of who I am, and who you are," said Sgt. 1st Class Claudio P. Gallegos, a support operations noncommissioned officer with the 168th, and native of Abilene, Texas. "I love being that American Soldier with a little Pico de Gallo added to my blood."
After reading his piece, Gallegos invited members of the audience to participate in a short dance lesson of Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata. Participants quickly filled the stage and danced to the Caribbean rhythms, which were explained by the events narrator, 1st Lt. Alexis Skinner, the battalion's adjutant.
The audience clapped to the music and encouraged the dancers. One member of the crowd recalled her excitement to see the dancers giving it their best at the dance moves they were taught.
"When the Soldier called on the audience members to participate, I quickly hid my head in fear of being called on too," said 2nd Lt. Gabrielle Van Daam, an essential personnel services officer in charge with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, and a native of Miami, Florida. "Once they began dancing, my fear was replaced with excitement to see people on the stage dancing to the music I grew up around."
At the close of the ceremony, many audience members went to 19th ESC's Sustainer Grill for a special lunch menu. At the dining facility, the 19th ESC commanding general, Brig. Gen. Michel M. Russell Sr., and his wife, Sieglinde Gruber-Russell, cut a ceremonial cake alongside Soldiers of Area IV, to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month.
Additionally, Soldiers assigned to HHC, 19th ESC celebrated after the ceremony by sharing traditional Hispanic dishes at a unit potluck party, held at the headquarters building here. Hispanic Heritage month is officially recognized across the U.S. from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.