8th Theater Sustainment Command kicked off National Hispanic Heritage Month with a celebration at Joe Takata Field Sept 18, on Fort Shafter. Soldiers, DoD civilians and their families were treated to Hispanic food, cultural displays and events highlighting different Hispanic regions around the world.
This year's theme, One Endless Voice to Enhance Our Traditions, invited all to reflect on the rich culture, traditions and history of Hispanic Americans. During the celebration, the 8th TSC also highlighted achievements and contributions of Hispanics in the military and in the defense of the nation.
"…Hispanic Americans have an undeniable and proud record of military service," said Maj. Gen. Charles R. Hamilton, commanding general, 8thTheater Sustainment Command and guest speaker. "Their presence traces back to the Civil War where more than 20,000 Hispanics fought on both sides of the war."
Hispanics have a long-standing history with remarkable contributions in building and defending the nation. More than 40 Medal of Honor recipients dating back to the Civil War represent the Army with deep, enduring patriotism and valor. Currently, more than 136,000 Hispanics serve in the military with more than 65,000 Hispanics serving within the Army.
During the observance, Hamilton recognized Sgt. 1st Class Ariel Romeroperez, 95th Engineer Company, as the 2018 Department of the Army recipient of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Excellence in Service Award. The LULAC award is given annually to military personnel who display dignified public service and acceptance of diversity.
Romeroperez said that receiving the LULAC award meant a lot to him.
"I came from Cuba, a very poor country," said Romeroperez. "I joined the army to give back to this beautiful country, and prove even though we are Hispanic we are Americans like everyone else."
Just as the United States was founded on diversity, it too is the Army's greatest strength.
The Army's diverse ranks create a stronger and more dynamic force. Hispanic Soldiers continue to be a vital part of the military's legacy serving with honor, integrity, selfless service and professionalism.
Hamilton emphasized that Romeroperez' story reminded all that the Army is much stronger because of diversity.
"Together we must continue to strive for equality and treat everyone with dignity and respect," said Hamilton. "…diversity, teamwork and unity contributes to Army readiness which is the cornerstone that enables our Army to accomplish the full range of military operations in defense of our nation."
A continuing theme has emerged with Hispanic-Americans serving in the military, and with a smile on his face, Romeroperez summed it up when he said, "I am very proud to be a Cuban-American and to serve in the military in this beautiful country."