By Jess Dupree, Fort Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence Public Affairs Office
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Sept. 26, 2017) – Members of the Fort Benning community gathered at McGinnis-Wickam Hall to celebrate Hispanic American culture and contributions during a recognition event Friday.
The United States recognizes National Hispanic American Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 every year.
According to 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry, Command Sergeant Major Michael D. Sanchez, who served as the guest speaker for this event, his Hispanic heritage was initially a point of shame during his childhood and young adulthood.
“I was ashamed and afraid of being a statistic in a negative form as a Hispanic man,” he said. “The bottom line: I was wrong, and I was immature in my ways. I really didn’t know what it was like to be a Hispanic.”
Sanchez said he grew to recognize his heritage as an opportunity rather than an obstacle, and celebrated the shared Latino culture of each Hispanic country.
Students from Morris R. McBride Elementary School read aloud and sang at the event. Alisson Owens, one of the students, read the history of the Hispanic Heritage Month.
“We recognize the contributions made by Hispanic and Latino Americans in the United States, and we celebrate their heritage and culture,” she said. “This observation began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage week under President Lyndon B. Johnson, and was expanded by Ronald Reagan in 1988.”
The group of six students took turns reading aloud some of the works of notable Hispanic poets Jaime Monriquez, Oscar Gonzalez and Gabriela Mistral. They closed their performance with a song called “Demos Gracias,” which means “Give Thanks” in Spanish.
Sanchez said this monthlong observance allows Soldiers to recognize cultures and traditions they may share among the different Latin countries.
“We’re recognizing the Hispanic heritage throughout, because it’s not just related to one descent,” he said. “It’s just another way we fuse together to be global.”
To learn more about Hispanic culture and heritage and the U.S. Army, visit www.army.mil/hispanics.
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