FORT IRWIN, Calif. – September is Hispanic Heritage Month at Fort Irwin and over 150 Soldiers and family members attended the Hispanic Heritage celebration at the Sandy Basin Community Center, Wed.
The guest speaker, Command Sgt. Maj. Eric J. Vidal, Regimental Support Squadron, 11th ACR Command Sergeant Major, shared his experiences of growing up in the Bronx as a Puerto Rican.
“My father had a hard time due to his thick accent,” said Vidal “and one day he came home and told my mother that we would no longer speak Spanish in front of our children because I need them not to have an accent to have a better chance of being successful in America.”
Vidal also reflected on his American dream, “I’m a firm believer that hard work pays off because since joining the Army, I’ve put my nose to the grindstone and never let anyone or anything stop me from pursuing the American dream – my American dream, a house, a car, a wife, my kids, and the ability to be a great provider for my family. That is my American Dream and I live that American Dream.”
Vidal just didn’t describe his American dream; he also spoke about his sense of Army pride.
“A sense of pride when I walk down the street in my uniform and people who don’t even know me congratulate me on the uniform that I wear,” said Vidal “no matter where I go, no matter what state I’m in or what country I’m in, the gratitude I get for wearing this uniform is the best.”
In addition to Vidal, Soleil Montejano, a Mexican folkloric ballet dancer, and her older sister, Sgt. Yolanda Duarte, Supply Sergeant with 11 ACR, demonstrated traditional Hispanic dances to upbeat music in bright and colorful flowing dresses.
“We are first generation Mexican American and our mother has taught us that we must keep our culture close to our hearts at all times and never be ashamed,” said Duarte “knowing the Army opened the doors to our background was astonishing, but I can’t say I expected any less as the Army is combined of many races, colors, and religions. We all have open minds and have made this organization work.”
After hearing Vidal’s experience and seeing traditional dancers, the audience took part in traditional Hispanic cuisine to include tapas, flautas, empanadas, Spanish rice, Mexican street corn, chorizo refried beans, fried plantains, mint water, fresh corn chips, and flan.