CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux community gathered to commemorate the long-standing and remarkable contributions that Hispanics have made in the military during special events on Sept. 28 in Schinnen, The Netherlands, and Oct. 4 in SHAPE, Belgium.

The observance, which is held from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, recognizes the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the nation, society and culture. This year's Department of Defense theme is "One Endless Voice to Enhance Our Traditions." In keeping with the theme, a special leader in the community spoke about how her background and upbringing helped her career progression in the military.

Command Sgt. Maj. Samara L. Pitre, command sergeant major for USAG Benelux, was the featured guest speaker at both events. She narrated her early life as a child born to a teenage mother in The Bronx and growing up in a supportive family.

A proud Nuyorican, meaning that she has Puerto Rican heritage and grew up in New York, she reflected how her family had a big impact on her childhood.

"I could have easily become a statistic and not be standing here today," she said. "But because of the way a Hispanic family lives and raises their children, it is all about family. There is a book that says it takes a village [to raise a child]. Well, in a Hispanic family, the village is the family."

She also added that her relatives made education a priority for the children.

"Both of my great-grandmothers said that education will be everything. Education is what makes
sure you don't become that statistic," she said.

She then reflected between the parallels of her upbringing and being in the military.

"The people you work with are family. I can relate to that. I grew up with nothing but family," she said. "As I have gone through the years [in the military], that's how I looked at my career and what I've done. It's about education, making myself better and being a part of a family. I truly believe that has helped me get to where I am right now."

She concluded her speech on how the family culture in the military enables mission readiness.

"How Soldiers accomplish what they do is how we take care of each other. We do it as if we are a family," she added. After the speaking engagement, the community gathered for festivities including music, cultural displays and homemade food, brought in by community members, to celebrate Hispanic heritage.

For more information about National Hispanic Heritage Month, visit https://www.army.mil/hispanics/.