Hispanic Heritage Month celebrated
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa, Japan -- Marines and sailors across Okinawa have been observing Hispanic Heritage Month, which began Sept. 15 across Okinawa.
Observances have taken place on all Marine Corps installations, as well as U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa.
The monthlong celebration honors the many contributions made by the Hispanic community. It originally began as Hispanic Heritage week under President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 and was expanded to Hispanic Heritage Month by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to celebrate the independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Chile and Nicaragua.
"The purpose of these observances is to enlighten and expand the awareness of the Marines in regards to Hispanic culture," said Master Sgt. Audrey J. Ellis, the equal opportunities advisor for 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
During this year's observances, there was a dance troupe, a poetry reading and a guest speaker, each highlighting a different aspect in diversity, according to Ellis.
"The message here is ‘diversity united,'" said Col. Michael E. Langley, the assistant division commander, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF. "It is up to every Marine to preach it and continue bringing everyone together."
The USNH Okinawa staff joined the Marines in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by hosting a luncheon.
"We organized a luncheon observance to be in line with the naval administrative message that recently was released," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher R. Peterson, the command sponsorship coordinator for the hospital. "We also wanted to show the contribution of Hispanics currently in the military service and also in the past."
The commanding officer of USNH Okinawa, Navy Capt. Pius Aiyelawo, prioritized the awareness effort, according to Peterson.
"Diversity is very important to the commanding officer," said Peterson. "He is an immigrant himself, so he took this to heart in making sure this was highly noticed."
Highlighting Hispanic heritage not only emphasizes diversity, but helps Marines and sailors understand another culture and better understand each other.
"By learning about different (cultures) you will be a better leader and a better person," said Langley.