By Spc. Gregory Summers, 1st Signal Brigade Public Affairs OfficeOctober 17, 2013
YONGSAN GARRISON, SOUTH KOREA -- The 1st Signal Brigade hosted the main observance for 2013's Hispanic Heritage Month at the Dragon Hill Lodge Naija Ballroom Oct. 1.
Members of United States Forces Korea came to celebrate and recognize Hispanic culture and Latinos that serve our nation's armed forces. 1st Sgt. Jose J. Santiago, USFK, Special Troops Battalion, United Nations Command Honor Guard Company, was the event's guest speaker.
"This year the Hispanic Heritage Month theme is 'Hispanics: Serving and Leading our Nation with Pride and Honor,'" said Santiago.
Santiago highlighted four Hispanic-Americans that demonstrate this year's theme including former Surgeon General Antonia Coello Vovello, actress Rita Moreno, baseball hall of fame member Roberto Clemente and former astronaut Dr. Ellen Ochoa Miles.
Santiago said that his father has influenced his life the most and is his role model.
Santiago's father was a Korean War veteran who enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 17, said Santiago. After his military service, Santiago's father attended the Inter-American University Law School in Puerto Rico and became an attorney.
"Because he believed in himself, he was able to achieve his goals with hard work and sacrifice," Santiago said. "He has truly taught me to appreciate life and realize how fortunate I am."
Santiago also spoke about the role that Hispanic-Americans have had in the military protecting this nation.
Santiago said that over 40 recipients of the Medal of Honor are of Hispanic descent. Santiago also said, "During the Korean War, the 65th Infantry Regiment, better known as the Borinqueneers of Puerto Rico, launched the last recorded battalion sized bayonet charge and overran the Chinese 149th Division south of Seoul more than 60 years ago."
Santiago also addressed the importance of diversity in our ranks.
"Many nations already view America with awe as they see our committed men and women from different backgrounds supporting our global military efforts," said Santiago. "We should remember that America is a nation of many different groups all coming together as one."
The observance provided education, awareness, laughs and even dancing.
Hispanic cultural dances like including the Bachata, the Merengue, and the Salsa were performed by Warrant Officer Moises Laboy, HHC 1st Signal Brigade and Sgt. 1st Class Yomaira Adames-Santos.
Laboy and Santos sizzled the ballroom as they demonstrated the passion and emotion that comes through Hispanic dancing.
Laboy said he has danced for fun for about 15 years, and that dancing in front of Soldiers he sees daily made him a little nervous.
"I was glad to see many Soldiers come out and support the event and our brigade leadership," Laboy said. "Being in a different country, it always pays off to have a taste of home away from home."
Laboy and Santos also persuaded members of the audience to participate in the "Cha-Cha Slide," a more modern and Hispanic version of the "Electric Slide."
The Hispanic Heritage Month ceremony concluded with awards and lunch.
Col. Paul H. Fredenburgh, Commander of 1st Signal Brigade, and Command Sgt. Maj. Darris Curry, Command Sergeant Major of 1st Signal Brigade presented Santiago an award to recognize his dedication and achievements to the army as a distinguished leader.