KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Servicemembers participated in a ceremony to honor Hispanic Heritage Month, Oct. 13, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.

The ceremony allowed servicemembers to learn about Latin American heritage and featured Hispanic cuisine and salsa dancing.

"It's a celebration of being Hispanic," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Fernando Ortiz, guest speaker at the event and 581st Area Support Medical Company medical director from Ft. Hood, Texas. "But, it's much more than that. It's the story of the nation."

Hispanic Heritage Month started as a weeklong celebration that was recognized from Sept 15-22. On September 15, 1821 Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua declared their independence. Mexico, Chile, and Belize all celebrate their independence during the same week. Since President Ronald Regan enacted the Hispanic Heritage celebration law in 1988, the celebration has grown from 14 to 30 days ending on Oct. 15 each year.

"It's great to be able to celebrate our heritage and all of the accomplishments of our people," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Julian M. Cubides, 451st Expeditionary Communications Squadron project manager from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. "I think it's even more special because we're in a deployed environment."

Ortiz said combat theater celebrations like this are not exclusive to Afghanistan; they happen everywhere U.S. troops are deployed.

They provide both Hispanic and non-Hispanic servicemembers a fun and educational break from the rigors of deployment and build comradery and tradition, he said.

"I think it's great," said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Philip R. Fisher, 184th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) commander. "Everybody should celebrate their heritage and culture and remember where their families came from."