CHIEVRES, Belgium -- The observance, 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 "Honoring Hispanic Americans: essential to the blueprint of our nation."

U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Carolyn Turell, command sergeant major for the 39th Strategic Signal Battalion, was the featured guest speaker at SHAPE. "Today is a day we recognize the courage, determination and sacrifice of so many Hispanics that made our nation what it is today, a place of equality and diversity," she said.

Turell was born in Long Island, New York, to a Guatemalan mother and a Puerto Rican father. "Being Hispanic to me is about family," Turell said. "We were always together as a family, and there was always music. Even when we simply cleaned the house, we did it together and yes, there was music," she added.

During her speech, Turell spoke about Sgt. First Class Leroy Petry. Born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, he is the second living, active-duty Soldier, to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2008, Petry was part of a team to capture a Taliban target. Despite being wounded in both legs by gunfire, he took charge of the young Soldiers he was leading. When a grenade landed between him and his men, he grabbed the grenade to save the Soldier's lives, but the grenade exploded and severed his right hand.

Turell concluded by challenging the audience. "It's easy to look at the many challenges we have to face today and feel discouraged. Each of us can make the difference. It's up to me, it's up to you. Find a way to make your own impact," she said.

After the ceremony, the community gathered for festivities, including homemade food, to celebrate Hispanic heritage.

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