LANDSTUHL, Germany -- Landstuhl Regional Medical Center's Hispanic Heritage Month observance on Oct. 8 featured Col. Manuel Pozo-Alonso, commander of Dental Health Command Europe as its guest speaker.

The annual Hispanic Heritage observance was widely attended by military and civilian personnel from across the Kaiserslautern Military Community.

National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States with displays and discussions of the histories, cultures and contributions of ancestors who came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

When talking about what being Hispanic means to him, Col. Pozo-Alonso said, "I came to the United States from Spain at the age of 18 with a backpack and a guitar and I became a U.S. citizen in 1988. Everything I have, the United States of America gave to me: my life, my children, my education and my military career."

He added, "If you travel to any Hispanic destination, you will often see entire families on the streets, three generations sharing food, laughter, taking care of each other. To me, that is Hispanic."

The Hispanic Heritage observance originally began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week and was expanded in 1988 to cover a 30-day period from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. This year's theme is "Honoring Hispanic Americans, Essential to the Blueprint of Our Nation."

Pozo-Alonso grew up in a modest home in Zamora, Spain with two brothers and two sisters. His family is of Castilian and Andalusian descent.

Having a deep rooted love for Hispanic music, as well as being a seasoned musician and singer, Col. Pozo-Alonso treated the audience to a series of songs from Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Cuba and the United States. Prior to his musical performance, he said, "I would like to take you on a musical and pictorial journey of Hispanic countries, highlighting the unique sounds and rhythms of each land. I want you to feel Hispanic with me for a few minutes."

Hispanics have a proud record of military service, dating all the way back to the Civil War. Whether their heritage can be traced to Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, or one of dozens of other Spanish-speaking countries or cultures, they've answered the "call to duty," defending America with unwavering valor and honor.

Pozo-Alonso assumed command of Dental Health Command Europe earlier this year. His military career encompasses more than 29 years of military service, including 12 years in the active U.S. Navy, five years in the U.S. Navy Reserve and 11 years in the U.S. Army.

As of 2018, Hispanic Soldiers comprised 15 percent of the Active Duty Army.

Today, thousands of Hispanic-American Soldiers are fighting contingency operations throughout the world -- engaging the enemy on distant shores, as well as protecting the homeland in the most noble of endeavors.

Just as in generations past, Hispanic Soldiers -- both men and women -- can be especially proud of their significant contributions to the war effort and embodying the U.S. Army's values that unite all service members as one.