By Pfc. Howard Ketter
Desert Voice Staff Writer
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Service members and civilians at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait celebrated Hispanic heritage in an event hosted by Area Support Group-Kuwait's Equal Opportunity office at the Tactical Activity Center, Sept. 24, 2008.
National Hispanic Heritage month, Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, is an observance that recognizes the contributions and achievements that people of Hispanic origin have done for the U.S.
"It's important to celebrate the Hispanic culture because they have contributed so much to help make America what it is today," said Maj. Ginamaria McCloskey, inspector general office, USARCENT, a native of Peekskill, N.Y.
Service members of all ethnicities and several different Hispanic countries attended the event, which began with a welcoming speech and opening remarks by McCloskey, the master of ceremony, and Lt. Col. Leda M. Rozier, civil affairs officer, 311th Sustainment Command, who repeated McCloskey's speech in Spanish.
An invocation was followed with singing of the national anthem by Spc. Errickay Thomas, 14th Human Resources Sustainment Command out of Fort Bragg, N.C. and Chicago, native.
Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry L. Ayala, 311th ESC, was the guest speaker for the event. He opened up by asking those in attendance, who were from a list of hispanic influenced countries he called out, to stand and be recognized. Proud service members and civilians stood and cheered as their country was called.
Ayala addressed service members on how Hispanic culture has a major impact on America.
"The Hispanic community has contributed its rich culture, architecture, food and the names of states to America," said Ayala.
He also included actors, writers, educators, scientists, astronauts, diplomats and several others people of Hispanic origin who have made major contributions to the country.
"Hispanics have always been found loyal and committed in serving the United States military since the Boxer Rebellion," said Ayala.
He spoke about Hispanic service members today who serve with loyalty and how many have achieved high ranking positions in the Armed Forces. Ayala also talked about those who serve in today's war, fighting for the U.S., earning awards such as the Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross.
He closed by talking about his own experiences being a Hispanic.
Ayala, whose family came from Mexico, was raised by his parents in America. He talked about how he took living in America, yet practicing Mexican culture within his household, for granted as a young boy.
"It was a blessing," said Ayala. "To bring that spirit out, that Hispanic culture, that rich heritage, what a joy it was to be at home at that time!"
He asked that Hispanics today continue those practices, while serving in the military.
"I'm very proud to be a Hispanic, to be a Latino, to be in the U.S. Army," Ayala added.
Following Ayala's speech, atendees watched demonstrations of different types of Hispanic dances.
Music Support Team D, 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, N.Y., came from Camp Victory, Iraq, and played a variety of Hispanic music for the audience during the event.
A variety of hispanic food was served by Kuwaiti Catering Company, along with an assortment of multi-colored desserts.
"I enjoy celebrating all cultures, learning about them and understanding them to help make me a better person," said McCloskey.