FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- With a bit of dancing and a lot of food, Fort Rucker kicked off its celebration of the Army's diversity and observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month at the Army and Air Force Exchange Service food court Sept. 23.

The observance runs through Oct. 15, and it kicked off with traditional Hispanic music, as well as a myriad of traditional Hispanic dishes that people from all walks of life were able to sample, said Sgt. 1st Class Pawoo Teh, Fort Rucker equal opportunity adviser.

"During this month, we celebrate the historic cultures and contributions of American citizens with ancestors from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America," he said.

This year's theme is Embracing, Enriching and Enabling America, which Teh said is something that Hispanic Americans have done throughout the years.

"Hispanics and Hispanic Americans still look at the United States as the great beacon of hope -- the land of opportunity and a place that where anyone with determination, self-discipline and hard work can achieve his or her goals," said the EO adviser. "We embrace the ideas that founded this nation, and we believe that the American Dream is self-determination, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Not only do Hispanics and Hispanic Americans embrace those ideas, but they also enrich the fabric that makes up the U.S., said Teh.

"They also bring their own traditions, culture, language, values, and work ethics and ideas to the great American table," he said. "(Hispanic Americans) enrich the culture, delivered through diversity, hard work, passion and unwavering commitment to make this country better than it already is."

That diversity and commitment is just a part of what Hispanics and Hispanic Americans have contributed to American society throughout the years, said the EO adviser. They have made contributes across the board, from the defense of this nation, to the arts, sports, public service, civil rights, business and much more.

"They enable the greatness of America by enabling America to maintain its competitive relevance and position in the global landscape as the leader of the free world," said Teh.

Although Hispanics and Hispanic Americans have made great contributions to not only the nation, but also the development of the nation, for many, the celebration of diversity was a much simpler.

"I just think this is a great way for us to get together and see that we are all just people," said Jennifer Stinson, military spouse. "Yes, our food is different, our culture is different and there are many differences we share, but at the same rate, we all eat, we all sleep, we all have families and we all love, so we're really not that different.

"No matter the differences, you're always going to be able to find similarities, and in the end we're all just human," she said. "Once people can start to see that rather than the things that make us different, I think we'll be a lot better off. I think being able to celebrate those differences is a great step in the right direction."

More observances will be held throughout the month of October. An ethnic observance will be held at the post theater Oct. 6 from 10-11:30 a.m., and a comedy and Salsa night will be held at the Landing Oct. 14 at 7 p.m.

For more information, call 255-9862.