FORT LEONARD WOOD - Diversity was celebrated in a big way, May 10, as thousands of Soldiers and hundreds of civilians took part in the first-ever Community Diversity Walk, sponsored by the Fort Leonard Wood Equal Opportunity Program.
Gammon Field was abuzz with activity as walkers assembled and prepared themselves for the 9.1-mile trek, beginning at Fort Leonard Wood, passing through St. Robert and ending at the Waynesville City Park.
Kicking off the walk, Brig. Gen. David Quantock, U.S. Army Military Police School commandant, encouraged the participants to celebrate diversity as they took part in the day's events.
"Diversity is what the United States of America is all about," Quantock said. Quantock acclaimed the richness Americans share is because of the different cultures, races and ideas.
"There is a reason why we are the greatest nation on the face of the earth," he said.
Following the speech, the walk kicked off and participants departed Gammon Field heading for the designated route. Traffic was closed down in one lane along Missouri Avenue, as what seemed like a never-ending stream of people passed through the installation, making their way to St. Robert. Along the route, organizers provide several checkpoints where civilians could join the walk, take a restroom break or get some water. Everybody stopped at the halfway point, the St. Robert Municipal Center, for a break and for words of encouragement from St. Robert Mayor George Sanders.
"All of you gathered here today to walk and talk and learn something about the person beside you," Sanders said.
Sharonda Grandberry, Venetta Jackson and Sgt. Shawdelin Hall, all participants, used the walk as an opportunity to gather with friends, celebrate the community and to get a little exercise as well.
"I just wanted to join in here today and take part in bringing the community together, " Jackson said.
Grandberry agreed with her, but also said the event was part of her weight-loss program.
The walk ended at the Waynesville City Park where Equal Opportunity kicked off this year's Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration. Upon arrival, Waynesville Mayor Cliff Hammock praised the community for the efforts made in making the walk a success. He also celebrated the Soldiers who took part in the event.
"I want to thank each of you for what you bring to your great nation and community," he said.
Sgt. 1st Class Felicia Alston, Garrison Command equal opportunity advisor, thanked the community and the participants for taking part in the walk.
"It's all about who we are as Americans," Alston said. "We are all very different, but we are able to come out in one accord to celebrate one another.
"People from all walks of life should be celebrated because of who they are, and they should be embraced because we are all special. The Community Diversity Walk was a vision that I had to bring people together through a fun, entertaining and non-competitive event. Many people from different cultures and backgrounds dream of dwelling in a place where they can live in harmony and peace with others despite their differences; and if only for a few hours, the Fort Leonard Wood community and the people from the surrounding communities were able to do just that.
"I applaud the efforts of everyone who contributed to the success of the event, and I would like to personally thank all who spent countless hours ensuring that every angle was carefully and professionally covered."
Following the formal ceremonies, the Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration kicked off and community members were provided with a hot dog lunch and entertainment was provided by Maria Fuavai and the Polynesian Culture Dance Group, a Korean dance group and a Korean drum team.