FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker kicked off its observance of Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 13 at the main exchange food court with free food, cultural displays, dance performances and more.The U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, the 1st Aviation Brigade Equal Opportunity Office, the Directorate of Family, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service all teamed up to help the community celebrate the diversity that makes the Army and the nation strong, said Sgt. Sgt. Ileana J. Salguero, equal opportunity leader for USAARL."While Hispanic American communities have roots that reach across the globe, their success stories are uniquely American, and their rich heritages continue to span the world and the depths of America's history," she said at the event. "Generation after generation, Hispanics have forged a proud legacy that reflects the spirit of our Nation -- a country that values the contributions of everyone -- who call America home."Through times of hardship and in the face of enduring prejudice, Hispanic Americans have persisted and forged ahead to help strengthen our nation," she continued. "Despite their difficulties and struggles, they have sacrificed and persevered to build a better life for themselves, their children and Americans as a whole. Today we kick off a celebration of the cultural traditions, ancestry, native languages and unique experiences represented among our Hispanic brothers and sisters, and honor their contributions to the American society and way of life."Several performance teams from Dothan and as far away as Tallahassee, Florida, then performed dances from several Hispanic cultures while volunteers served free ethnic food and attendees perused the various information booths on display.Sgt. 1st Class William Crowley, 1st Avn. Bde. EO adviser, thanked all of those who teamed together to make the event a success, and then extended his thanks even further."I want to express my deepest gratitude for the tremendous contributions of our Hispanic American brothers and sisters who have helped shape our great country into a land that remains free for all to achieve their dreams," he said. "It is through your hard work and perseverance that we, as a nation, remain strong today."Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 by celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America, according to the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute.Hispanic Heritage Month stands out from other cultural observances in that it spans two different months: September and October. The date of the observance was chosen to coincide with important events in many communities, including several independence days throughout Latin America, according to DEOMI officials.This year's theme, Honoring Hispanic Americans: Essential to the Blueprint of our Nation, is designed to help show how Hispanics have had a profound and positive influence on the country through their strong commitment to family, faith, hard work and service, according to DEOMI officials.For more on Hispanic Heritage Month, visit https://www.deomi.org/.