FORT STEWART, Ga. - The 3rd Infantry Division's annual celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month of Service, hosted by the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, was held Sept. 25 at Club Stewart on Fort Stewart, Georgia.
"Thank you for giving me this great opportunity to celebrate Hispanic heritage, our Soldiers and to celebrate our Families," said Command Sgt. Maj. Oscar Rodriguez, 9th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2 ABCT, 3rd ID, and keynote speaker at the event.
The celebration included three traditional dance arrangements to represent Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 and celebrates the accomplishments of Hispanic Americans, according to a presidential proclamation issued on Sept. 13 by President Donald Trump.
The dates are significant in this month as the anniversary of independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua is Sept. 15, while Mexico declared its independence Sept. 16, and Chile celebrated its independence on Sept. 18.
The theme for this year's celebration was, "honoring Hispanic Americans, essential to the blueprint of our nation." The theme was supported by facts stated at the ceremony, informing those in attendance the Hispanic population in the United States is expected to grow to 119 million in 2060. According to the projection, the Hispanic population will constitute 28.6 percent of the nation's population by that date.
The program for the event displayed the names of Hispanic-American Soldiers who had received the Medal of Honor during their careers in the military.
The observance began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 31-day period.
Rodriguez spoke to those in attendance about his Hispanic heritage; his Family; his immigration into the United States as well as his struggle through the Army's Basic Combat Training.
"It's not that I didn't want to be in the United States military, it is that when I joined the military, I didn't know how to speak or write English," Rodriguez said.
Though he struggled, he graduated and became a U.S. Soldier. He told his wife all he wanted to be was a drill sergeant and she supported him.
"She said, 'Go ahead, go be everything you want to be; I will always be here,'" Rodriguez said. "Twenty-five years later, after I met her for the first time, she knows that I haven't finished, yet. I just love being a Soldier."
Rodriguez said Family is the most important thing to him in his life, and took the opportunity to applaud the Families in the room.
"Today, I want to celebrate our Families," Rodriguez said. "Behind every Soldier is a mom, a dad, sister, brother, husband and wife - they are the keys to our success."