Soldiers and Civilians gathered at Thunder Mountain Activity Centre Tuesday for a Hispanic Heritage Month observance hosted by the Fort Huachuca Military Equal Opportunity Office and the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, or USAICoE.
Attendees took in the sights of 20 different country displays located in the lobby, the sounds of Spanish music and enjoyed Latin American cuisine and a “Baile Folklórico” dance performance by Alma Dolores International Dance Center.
“[I want attendees to] understand and have appreciation that, even though we have different ethnicities, different races, we all contribute equally,” said Sgt. 1st Class Federico Molinar, Fort Huachuca Military Equal Opportunity Office, USAICoE.
Guest speaker Lt. Col. Maricela Alvarado, G3/5/7, USAICoE, reminded those in attendance that Hispanic Heritage Month is more than celebrating culture; it focuses on the contributions Hispanics and Latinos have made to the country.
Alvarado elaborated on this year’s theme, “Celebrating Hispanics Serving and Leading our Nation with Pride and Honor,” by emphasizing the importance of developing the next generation of Hispanic leaders, both in the military and civilian sector.
She shared the story of how she saw an American Soldier in uniform for the first time when she was five; it was her cousin who fought in the Vietnam War.
“ … an individual doesn’t wake up one day and say, today I’m joining the military and I’m going to serve with honor and pride. There is something or someone who has influenced or touched the lives of those individuals,” Alvarado said.
Among other personal experiences, Alvarado talked about her previous assignment as Professor of Military Science at the University of Texas Pan American and how 95 percent of the cadets graduating were Hispanic. She stated that the cadets were in search of Hispanic role models and she did her best to bring in Hispanic officers to talk with the them.
“When those senior leaders sat in a round table discussion with our cadets, they just soaked everything in,” Alvarado said, stressing the impact these Hispanic officers had on the graduates.
She also pointed out the need for Hispanic leadership due to the growing population. According to her statistics by 2050, Hispanics will comprise 30 percent of the population in the nation.
“ … for those of you here who are Hispanic, you have to continue to serve with honor and pride to be a positive role model for those youth so they can associate themselves with you — but we can’t stop there,” Alvarado explained. “We have the responsibility to mentor and to develop those young kids, to instill a sense of pride and confidence so that they one day can be successful. As a nation, we must recognize those Hispanics serving and leading our nation today, those who are serving confidently, with pride and honor every day.”
In addition to Alvarado, Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, commanding general, USAICoE and Fort Huachuca, gave the opening and closing remarks of the event. His introduction touched on the history of Hispanic Heritage Month and the history of Hispanics serving in the military.
“For those of us in the military community who have been brothers in arms with our Hispanic Americans through the years, it’s very interesting to note that there is over 1.2 million Hispanics or Latinos that have served or are veterans in the military, in fact probably few realize is of ethnic groups in the United States, there are more Medals of Honor that have been [received] by Hispanic Americans than any other ethnic group,” Ashley said.
Hispanic Heritage Month is observed Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. The observation began as Hispanic Heritage week under Pres. Lyndon Johnson, but was extended to a 30-day period under Pres. Ronald Reagan in 1988. Sept. 15 is the anniversary of numerous independence days across Central America, including Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence day on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18 while Columbus Day, or “Día de la Raza,” on Oct. 12, falls within the 30-day period.