By Sgt. James Geelen | 4th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
FORT CARSON, Colo. — In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation creating Hispanic Heritage Week to celebrate the histories, beliefs and roles of citizens whose descendants came from the many Latin-American countries. Twenty years later, President Ronald Reagan signed a law expanding the observance to 30 days, Sept. 15, 2019 to Oct. 15, 2019.
In keeping with the traditions started 51 years ago, Soldiers with 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, hosted a Hispanic Heritage Observance ceremony Oct. 9, 2019, at Elkhorn Conference Center to encourage cultural appreciation and build mutual respect and understanding among the Fort Carson community. Soldiers throughout the division packed the room to hear testimonials from fellow service members and sample Hispanic-style cuisine.
“Sept. 15 is very important to the Hispanic community,” said 2nd Lt. Bryan Hudson, platoon leader, 534th Signal Company, 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th SB. “It’s the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Mexico celebrates its independence Sept. 16, 2019, and Chile Sept. 18, 2019.”
The guest speakers shared their own stories of growing up and spoke of their Hispanic pride.
“My parents came here illegally and then got their residency,” said Staff Sgt. Julio Garcia, support operations NCO, 68th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 4th SB. “My mother was pregnant while crossing the border and my parents wanted to give me and my brother a better opportunity. They are proud of me for serving this country that they love.”
1st Lt. Jacob Salazar, platoon leader, 534th Signal Company, 4th STB, 4th SB, said he believes it’s important for Hispanic-Americans to share their stories.
“My culture, its history and those who came before me, make up a great part of who I am,” Salazar said. “And it’s important that I’m able to share it with you. Most Hispanics have traveled a hard road, including myself, but with hard work and perseverance, you can make your dreams come true.”
The testimonial that resonated with the audience came from Spc. Sergio Fernandez, petroleum supply specialist, 59th Quartermaster Company, 68th CSSB, 4th SB, as he spoke about his decision to flee communist Cuba and leave his Family behind.
“On Aug. 23, 2014, after only 23 days working in the medical mission in Venezuela, I boarded a bus and headed to Colombia, abandoning everyone I knew,” Fernandez said. “Even though I knew that I would not be allowed back into Cuba for eight years, I decided to go to the United States. I got on a bus in Venezuela and had to travel for eight hours to get to Colombia. I was nervous crossing the border because the Venezuelan Army had checkpoints there, they could stop me and take me back to the mission and Cuban authorities. I feel that I got lucky crossing the border.”
After the testimonials, Soldiers demonstrated Salsa, Bachata and Merengue dancing, which closed out the event with a festive spirit.