Sept. 26 , 2010

Diversity Day celebrated during Hispanic Heritage Month

By Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen        
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va.— The Virginia National Guard celebrated Hispanic Heritage month and held their second annual Diversity Day with a program by special guest speaker and filmmaker, Noemi Figueroa Soulet, who showed clips from her film, “The Borinqueneers,” Sept. 14 in building 1700 at Fort Pickett.

 

Soldiers and Airmen celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and the Virginia National Guard's 2nd annual Diversity Day at Fort Pickett Sept, 14. The Guardsman, as well as JROTC cadets from Nottoway High School and Parkview High School, were presented with excerpts from the PBS special, "The Borinqueneers" by the film's creator, Neomi Figuero Soulet. Following the film highlights, they enjoyed cuisine from various cultures around the world. (Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

The Equal Opportunity Office of the Virginia Guard presented the program to a crowd of over 100 Soldiers, Airmen and Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps cadets from Nottoway High School and Parkview High School in the auditorium.

The program placed special emphasis on military contributions made by Hispanic Americans who have served American forces with special emphasis on the Soldiers of the Puerto Rico-based 65th Infantry Regiment, the only all-Hispanic unit in U.S. Army history.

The 65th Borinqueneers served proudly during the Korean conflict and the film tells the story of their struggle before, during, and after the conflict.

According to the film, the men of the 65th were bound by a strong cultural identity, in spite of discrimination within the Army and curtailed rights in their own land, where to this day they can be drafted, but cannot vote in U.S. elections. Having performed with distinction early in Korea, the Borinqueneers would face their greatest challenge in the fall of 1952, when more than 100 Soldiers were arrested.

Figueroa Soulet, noted that the values and the emphasis on diversity among the troops that made the 65th successful in battle rings true today among U.S. forces serving around the world. “When an environment of respect, growth and human dignity is fostered, you have effective and motivated Soldiers,” she said.

“Watching the film about the 65th Puerto Rican Regiment was moving, and it brought tears to my eyes hearing and seeing what those brave individuals did,” said Spc. Lori Adkins, EO coordinator. “It makes me feel so blessed that we have people who volunteer to enlist into the military to serve for our country, not everyone can do it, but those who choose to do it are heroes.”

To celebrate its second annual Diversity Day, the Virginia Guard EO office had several tables with displays offering food and drinks from many different cultures. The tables were decorated with pictures and artifacts celebrating the different cultures represented in the Virginia Guard. Several of the display tables were manned by members of the Virginia Guard.

“Learning about all the different cultures we encounter on an everyday basis within our workforce and community will help bridge the gap on violence, hate, discrimination, and start to have us working hand in hand, loving, caring for each other as our own,” said Adkins.

“This event is a celebration of all Americans; as we look toward the future, we can’t forget our past. So today we celebrate both in hopes that no one’s heritage or history is forgotten,” said Air Force Capt. Antoinette Allen, state equal employment manager. “This event and every special emphasis observance is a reflection of this great nation’s ability to embrace the ideology of inclusion.”

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