Story and photos by Andrea Smith
The proud spirit of Fort Leonard Wood’s diverse Hispanic-American community was celebrated Friday at Nutter Field House during the installation’s Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration.
This year’s observance, which had the theme, “Hispanics: One Endless Voice to Enhance Our Traditions,” consisted of a day-long event hosted by 14th Military Police Brigade.
To make the event an energetic celebration, Fort Leonard Wood Hispanic community members manned booths representing the different countries and territories that make up Latin America. With their booths, they shared family recipes and foods that have been part of their culture for generations.
Chaplain (Capt.) Jose Rondon, 787 Military Police Battalion chaplain, served as guest speaker for the program. Born and raised in Venezuela, Rondon moved to America in 1992 and enlisted in the United States Army in 2011 to become a chaplain.
During his remarks, Rondon said the United States Army is the strongest army in the world precisely because of the many different cultures it brings together to serve as one force.
“Diversity makes us stronger because it shows us that even with our different backgrounds, we can come together as a team,” Rondon said in an interview before the program. “Recognizing heritage cultivates pride. It allows us to know that this team consists of a mosaic that is really unique to the Army.”
“As long as we continue to treat others with dignity and respect, we will continue to move forward as an Army,” Rondon added.
According to the Library of Congress website, each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Prior to and following the ceremony, community members continued learning about different countries and sampling food at their own pace. Special performances were conducted by Familias Hispanas Unidas and the Waynesville High School choir.