By Sgt. 1st Class Mark BellOctober 2, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- From a short history lesson to tasty foods, several dozen 81st Regional Support Command Soldiers, civilian employees, contractors and family members spent more than 90 minutes celebrating the Hispanic heritage.
As part of the month-long national celebration, the Army Reserve command, based here, took time out of their base operation missions to remember the past accomplishments of the Hispanic community.
"It's important to observe ethnic observances, because we learn so much about other cultures and we understand why people do things a little differently than us," said Command Sgt. Maj. Luis Blanco, the Cuban-born senior enlisted Soldier of the command.
Blanco said it is important for the Soldiers and civilians of the command to learn from others and understand where they come from, to develop a more cohesive team.
As Latino music played in the background, several Hispanic Soldiers and civilians were available for questions from curious minds.
For Sgt. 1st Class Osvaldo Santiago, an Active Guard Reserve Soldier from Ponce, Puerto Rico, being able to celebrate his heritage at work was great but helping others understand his culture was more exciting.
"I would like them to understand that we are Americans, and there really isn't much difference on the inside," he said. "We have the same family values as other cultures. We love our children and hope they grow up to be positive role models in their communities."
Santiago said he hopes people realize that Hispanic people have been through a lot and have struggled in the past, but they have contributed to make today's society a better place to live.
From: David Glasgow Farragut, a Hispanic who was the first Admiral of the U.S. Navy, played a decisive role in the final outcome of our Civil War and was credited with the battle cry "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" To: Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic United States Supreme Court Justice; Santiago said Hispanics have been there since the founding fathers were mapping out a new America.
"We are educated Americans sitting in key roles in corporations and the federal government," he said. "It's exciting to see our culture impact America in a positive way."
The once empty tables lining the side walls of a conference room in the Spc. Thomas Caughman Army Reserve Center were soon filled with dozens of delicacies from a variety of Mexican casseroles to the popular small powdered wedding cookies.
"I've never met a dish I didn't like," said Chief Warrant Officer Betty J. Agnew, a military personnel technician who provided two dishes for the celebration. "I love new tastes and trying a variety of foods."
Agnew said Americans tend to be desensitized when it comes to food.
"We are all about hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries," she said. "As a whole, we need to move beyond the steak and potatoes."
She said the small celebration was more important than tasting new foods, but was more about the whole experience of a different ethnic culture.
"We, as a society, need to learn about other cultures and their beliefs and values," she said. "If we do that, we are able to truly become a melting pot of the world."
Whether they were learning bits of a different language or tempting their pallets with new tastes, the celebration organizers hoped the Wildcat team walked away with a better understanding of the Hispanic heritage and culture.
"It's impossible to celebrate all of the many cultures and heritages in this country," said Master Sgt. Denise Underwood. "But, as a nation and as an Army it is important that we observe those that we can. We must acknowledge and appreciate the differences that make us one."