ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Members of the Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) community gathered to celebrate Hispanic American Heritage Month Sept. 29 at the Aberdeen Area Recreation Center.

Janice Burke, APG Equal Employment Opportunity Officer, served as the mistress of ceremonies for the event. Daniel Wimbley, husband of Sgt. First Class Laquita Wimbley, sang the national anthem.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jimmy Davis from the 20th Support Command (CBRNE) gave the invocation. During the program the dance group D4C performed three traditional dances from Columbia, Venezuela and Mexico.

Col. Orlando W. Ortiz, APG Garrison and deputy installation commander gave welcoming remarks and introduced the guest speaker.

"We are glad you are here; we are one team, unifying and moving forward," he said.

Ortiz added that Hispanic Heritage month is important to him, as his Family is from Puerto Rico.

He said that the importance of ethnic observances is that it gives the APG community an opportunity to give thanks for the service of those who went before us, who come from diverse backgrounds.

Ortiz said that collectively, Hispanics represent the history, culture and traditions of 20 nations and form a vital part of the Army's rich and diverse social fabric.

He added that Hispanic Soldiers are prevalent throughout the Army, making up nearly six percent of commissioned officers, eight percent of warrant officers, 12 percent of enlisted personnel, and six percent of the Army civilian workforce.

"Hispanics have served with honor and distinction in every conflict since the Revolutionary War," he said. "They have made invaluable contributions through their service to our country."

The guest speaker for the event was retired Brig. Gen. Alberto J. Jimenez.

Jimenez is currently the chief of staff of the Maryland Military Department. Prior to his retirement, he was assigned as the assistant adjutant general for the Maryland Army National Guard and the Maryland Army National Guard Commander.

Jimenez is also a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, where he served as an attack-helicopter pilot, and was an honor graduate of the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Ga. Jimenez said that the influence of Hispanic culture is prevalent in America today.

"There is something about being Hispanic, we like to be in everything," he said.

Jimenez added that the Hispanic community is quite diverse. He said that he is troubled when the local press and the national press polarize Americans, putting Hispanic Americans against non-Hispanic Americans.

"I am troubled when they begin to infer that anyone that is Hispanic in America must be here illegally," he said. "I served our nation and my blood also runs just as red as anyone else. The Constitution of the United States of America does not say black American, white American, it says one nation under God."

Jimenez said that many great Hispanic Americans have served their country bravely and proudly.

"From the Civil War until today there have been forty-three Medal of Honor recipients from Hispanic ancestry," he said. "They never asked to be heroes; they just did what their country asked them to do."

After the program attendees looked at displays featuring Hispanic clothing, art and history, and sampled Hispanic food from La Tolteca and Super Chicken Rico. Homemade desserts were also available for sampling.

Several attendees commented that they enjoyed the program.

"I like that programs like these support having a diverse workforce on APG," said John Parraz, from Aberdeen Test Center. "I try to attend programs like these whenever possible."

Jill Foulke, a visitor, said that she attended the program with her friends because they were interested in hearing the guest speaker. Foulke added that she has been interested in learning more about Hispanic culture in recent years.

"America's Hispanic population is on the rise so I think it is important to learn about the Hispanic culture," she said. "I have been helping my granddaughter with her Spanish homework and I am trying to learn some Spanish too."

Margareth Olivo who performed during the program in the group D4C, which stands for Dance for Christ, said she was glad that the group had a chance to perform at APG. Olivo said that the group strives to send a positive message by performing to Spanish Christian music.

"We want to positively influence Hispanic youth," Olivo said. "We want to get the youth involved to celebrate their Hispanic culture and we want to show others that we can dance and still worship God."

Janice Burke, APG Equal Employment Opportunity Officer, thanked Sgt. 1st Class LaQuita Wimbley, U.S. Army Research, Development, Engineering Command Equal Opportunity Advisor; Carmen Adrover, U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency; Linda Patrick, U.S. Army Public Health Command (Provisional); Master Sgt. Michelle B. Davis, 20th Support Command Equal Opportunity Advisor; Capt. Jodi Santiago, USAPHC (Prov.) Equal Opportunity Liaison; Rosa Satz, U.S. Army Materiel
Command, League of United Latin American Citizens; and Sgt. 1st Class David B. Pickett, 61st Ordnance Brigade EOA, for helping organize the event.

The local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month with a cultural and community outreach event at Top of the Bay Sept. 17.

Col. Orlando W. Ortiz, APG Garrison and deputy installation commander gave remarks and guest speaker Maj. Charles Edward Geter, recruiting retention officer, U.S. Army Cadet Command, Fort Bragg, N.C., delivered the keynote address.

The event included music by the U.S. Army Blues, the ensemble jazz band from the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own," from Washington, D.C.

Rose Satz, president of the local LULAC chapter, said the organization partners with the U.S. Army Accessions Command to support national and local Reserve Officers' Training Corps recruiting efforts.

"The LULAC mission is to advance the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, housing, health and civil rights of Hispanic Americans," Satz said. For more information about LULAC activities or membership, call Satz at 732-580-0766 or e-mail lulacmaryland@gmail.com.