Diversity Day encourages Team Schriever members to learn about and embrace the various cultures represented within the base’s population. This year’s event will be held 10 a.m. — 2 p.m. Aug. 26, at the indoor running track and will feature food, demonstrations and presentations from more than 10 cultures. A sampling from some of those cultures follows, each full story can be found online at www.schriever.af.mil.
Service with acceptance
Change comes in all forms and its application occurs in every aspect of life. The U.S. military in the 21st century has undergone many changes. The military today has, in many ways, fundamentally changed its structure from the military of past generations.
The inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals to openly serve amongst its ranks is a direct reflection of this change.
LGBT individuals have long served their country as medics, riflemen, tank drivers and war heroes. Officers and enlisted, draftees and volunteers.
They fought alongside their brothers and sisters in arms in times of terror and triumph, in times where an individual’s sexual orientation was the least care on the minds of his/her comrades in comparison to the person’s ability to protect their brethren.
They have always been part of the armed forces’ history. Yet for a long time, they were forced to serve in secrecy, at risk of discharge or even prosecution. Years of service and countless military members’ careers were cut short all because of who they love.
It was not until the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on Sept. 20, 2011, that LGB individuals could serve openly.
James Hodges, Schriever community outreach chief, who is openly gay and married to a military veteran who served while the DADT policy was still enforced, advocates for more open discussion on LGBT topics.
“Understanding leads to acceptance,” said Hodges. “I can learn just as much from you as you can learn from me, being from the LGBT community. We all bring something to the table. That’s what diversity day is all about. We want people to come by, have a seat in a nice comfy chair and talk with us. Get to know our stories, get to know what we’ve gone through.”
African-American history on display
Society has received contributions from African-Americans throughout history. From crop rotation and more than 300 uses for peanuts to potato chips, rock ‘n roll, the automatic oil cup, carbon-filament light-bulbs, blood banks, protective mailboxes, gas masks and the traffic light just to name a few, African-Americans have left an unmistakable mark on our world today.
“We want to create a climate where people feel open about embracing their differences in order to grow,” said 2nd Lt. Kenneth Barber, 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron payload systems operator and one of the individuals who will highlight the African-American culture.
Sharing his culture is a passion he shares with Staff Sgt. Trey Barnes, 2nd Space Operations Squadron GPS crew chief.
“I decided to participate in diversity day because I wanted a chance to be a part of something that will highlight African-American culture in a positive light,” said Barnes. “It’s important for me to be as active as I can in the African-American community because I grew up in Memphis which often gives bad impressions of the black people who live there. I want to help change those negative interpretations into positive ones by educating people on African-American culture.”
Barber and Barnes will not only seek to inform others on their culture, but also look forward to learning about other cultures as well.
“I hope to learn something about someone I never knew before. Everyone has a voice and they will be loud and proud on Diversity Day,” said Barber.
‘Not everybody’s related to the mob’
The days of Al Capone and Lucky Luciano may be well past, but that doesn’t mean Italian-Americans aren’t still living in their shadow.
“I’m from New Jersey and Italian and that’s the first question, ‘Do you have any mob ties,’” said Capt. Kelly Caggiano, Commander’s Action Group chief. “Not everybody’s related to the mob. There are a lot of stereotypes that don’t apply to most Italian-Americans you meet.”
There are some clichés that are true she added (while using hand gestures to drive the point home), but most of them are part of what makes the culture what it is.
“We don’t do anything small, everything is a very large family gathering,” she said. “I have 30 first cousins, 15 or 20 aunts and uncles and we don’t just stop the family gatherings there. I’ve got third cousins I still see and interact with regularly. It’s just a very family oriented way of growing up.”
While the mob question is one Caggiano hopes will eventually fade, there are aspects of her Italian heritage she wants to share.
“My Italian heritage is such a huge part of who I am and how I was raised,” she said. “Out here in the Midwest, where there’s not a very large Italian population, I’d really like to share that (experience).”
Redefining cultural representation
The old adage goes, “You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.”
Senior Airman Alyssa Flores, Bioenvironmental Engineering technician, takes this to heart as a leader of the Asian and Pacific Islander cultural booth.
One of Flores’ goals is to inform attendees about Asian and Pacific Islander culture as well as American/Asian partnerships — especially in the military. She hopes to cast new light on those relations, as well as remind and educate people about the ways Asian nations/Asian-Americans have partnered with the U.S. military in the past.
“We do want to remind people of about (Asian) connections with the U.S. Air Force and military because not a lot of people know may know about Asian-American military history. For some, the first thought that may come to mind is the Vietnam War or enemy engagements,” said Flores.
Flores, Filipino herself, shared that her decision to help lead the cultural booth is due to a tie closer to home — her grandfather.