NEWS | Oct. 19, 2016

Arifjan Celebrates Hispanic Heritage

By Sgt. Jonathan Fernandez U.S. Army Central

Regional displays brought a 28 year old observance to life for Soldiers in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility where Hispanic and Latin American Soldiers could celebrate their memories from home and share it with their fellow service members.

First Sustainment Command (Theater) hosted a Hispanic Heritage month observance featuring different aspects of Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican and Cuba culture for service members at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, held on October 1.

Americans around the world celebrate the observance from September 15 to October 15 every year since former President Ronald Reagan signed it into law in 1988.

This year’s observance theme focused on three elements: embracing, enriching and enabling America.

“Hispanics and Hispanic Americans view America as the land of opportunity and they believe in the American dream and self-determination,” said Sgt. 1st Class Lisa Paxton, an equal opportunity advisor at U.S. Army Central. “They enrich American culture with their culture, their language, values, work ethic and ideals. And, they enable by contributing in many fields that add to American greatness.”

The observance consisted of a panel made up of Hispanic service members from a range of duties and roles, a dance showcase, several tables set up with information and treats from different Latin American countries and a piñata. Maj. Gen. William Hickman, the deputy commanding general-operations of U.S. Army Central, welcomed the dancers to the stage in his special appearance and Brig. Gen. Bruce Hackett, the commanding general of 451st Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), introduced the panel members.

“Each opportunity to come together and recognize the contributions of different cultures within our Army is truly a special occasion,” Hickman said as the dancers were getting on the stage. “One of the most recognizable contributions has been dance.”

The dancers, Soldiers at Arifjan, showcased the Bachata, Merengue and Salsa dances.

“Ethnic observances are extremely important,” said Paxton. “They help service members to better understand the importance of diversity and the importance of understanding your fellow Soldiers’ backgrounds.”

Hispanics make up 17-percent of the U.S. population with 55 million people according to the latest national census.

“The purpose of the Hispanic Heritage month observance…is to educate everyone who comes out to participate and observe,” said Staff Sgt. Beatriz Sanchez, a facility maintenance office noncommissioned officer with 1st TSC and one of the event organizers.

People from different cities, countries, continents, backgrounds, cultures and beliefs make up the United States of America. These different cultures are what make the Army the best, said Paxton.

“Even though we all come from different cultures and backgrounds, we are all brothers and sisters in arms and we all work together regardless of our background, said Paxton. “We can be proud of our backgrounds and still work as one team… America is great because of its diversity.”

This is the idea behind the Equal Opportunity observances, said Sanchez.

“This was a celebration and everything that was brought to the observance provided positive energy,” she said. “People were smiling and laughing. Our military family came together and that’s what EO is about. People coming together as a community to celebrate and unite.”