SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, HAWAII-- Although the times have changed since the Civil War, the history and legacy of Hispanic Soldiers and civilians who have served in the U.S. Army, in the past and who are currently serving in the present, is celebrated to show appreciation of their influence and direct impact on the strength of the U.S. Army's diverse force.

The 500th Military Intelligence Brigade-Theater (MIB-T) hosted an observance ceremony in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month at the Main Post Chapel, Oct. 11.

Each year, National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. During this celebration, the U.S. Army commemorates and celebrates the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the nation, society and culture. This year's theme is "Hispanics: One Endless Voice to Enhance our Traditions."

Guest speaker Col. David Hernandez, deputy chief of nursing, Schofield Barracks Health Clinic, talked about the importance of heritage, culture and traditions. He also shared personal experiences throughout his military career.

"I come from a mixture of different traditions," said Hernandez. "I'm of Mexican descent, but born in the U.S. My family origin is from the state of Puebla, Mexico. As I was practicing the culture and traditions, I was also embracing the American way of life."

Hernandez, an Eagle Pass, Texas, native, has served honorably for 30 years. He humbly noted that the road to get where he is at today as a colonel wasn't easy and he had to overcome obstacles to get from one point to another.

"The road to get here was hard, but I have to tell you that the American dream is still there for all of us," said Hernandez. "I also accept the fact that for 30 years I've been a part of the military community and have learned new ways to make myself better, the same way I've learned from other cultures and traditions."

During the ceremony, the audience was serenaded by the Latin sounds played through the instruments led by the 25th Infantry Division Band. Their attention was also captivated by a special dance selection performed by Grupo Folkorico de Panama in Hawaii, a group of local Panamanian dancers.

Some of the Hispanic Soldiers assigned to the 500th MIB-T were able to share their pride in their heritage and culture through reciting a poem in English and Spanish, a video presentation and a special tribute to a family member who served in the 65th Infantry Regiment and received the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest civilian awards in the U.S.

Pfc. Chloe Olmedo, a human resource specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), 500th MIB-T, reminisced on the things that she loves most about her culture.

"It's nice that Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated every year because everyone learns about the different cultures," said Olmedo.

Olmedo, a Dallas, Texas, native and of Mexican descent, was excited to be a part of the celebration and represent her culture.

"In my family, the biggest celebration is Christmas," said Olmedo. "We have a big feast and we also play a game called loteria and toma todo. It's really fun and our whole family comes together."

The U.S. Army values its diverse force. There are currently more than 136,000 Hispanic Soldiers who currently serve. Their commitment to duty, selfless service, personal courage and sacrifices continue to make a tremendous impact on the U.S. Army's inclusive environment, which will encourage and inspire those in the future to continue the legacy of the Hispanic culture.

In his closing remarks, Hernandez emphasized embracing other cultures and staying true to who you are.

"We can admire and accept new ways of doing things to improve ourselves to get the best of another culture, but we cannot forget who we are and what made us," said Hernandez. "We can be the catalyst of positive change without losing our identity. Yes, we can be the voice that will keep our traditions alive for future generations."