By Seaman Dalton Caples, USS San Diego Public Affairs
The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22) held a Hispanic Heritage celebration with Sailors and Marines honoring their diverse community in the ship’s chapel, Oct. 3, 2017.
The Hispanic Heritage Month observance was held to show how cultural diversity has helped shape the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps into the fighting force it is today and to reflect on the history of Hispanic trail blazers and service members. Currently, more than 17% of the U.S. Navy’s active force is Hispanic.
“There is no other military that is as colorful as the U.S. Armed Forces,” said Chief Boatswain’s Mate Eddis Ramirez, one of the events guest speakers. “The military is a melting pot of nationalities, ethnicities, cultures and religions working side by side to always complete the mission.”
The celebration featured different aspects of Hispanic culture including piñatas, dances, decorations and food from a variety of Hispanic cultures as a meaningful way to reflect on some of the influences of the Hispanic community.
“It is a way for us to remember those who came before and the contributions Hispanics have made to the Navy, armed forces, and our country as a whole,” said Ramirez.
People of Hispanic descent have served in all branches of the military in nearly every conflict in U.S. history, leaving a lasting impression on both military personnel and civilians.
“Hispanics have had a profound influence on our country through their strong commitment to faith, family and service,” said Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class Edward Gutierrez during the ceremonies opening remarks. “They have enhanced our national character with centuries old traditions that reflect the multicultural customs of their community.”
The celebration was concluded with a special meal prepared and planned for by the diversity committee consisting of arroz con pollo, barbacoa and habichulas guisandas.
“We looked at different types of foods in the Hispanic culture and saw what was feasible to do on the ship and the diversity committee highlighted all the different [cultural] foods we could prepare for the meal,” said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Charlene Cruz, the lead chef. “I just wanted to do the dishes justice in representing the cultures, and it seemed to pay off because the crew really enjoyed the meal.”
While the day’s celebration was the focal point of the month-long observance, the diversity committee added a variety of festivities and educational events throughout the 30-day event.
“The diversity committee did a lot this month,” said Ship’s Serviceman 1st Class Andrew Sagapolutele, president of the ship’s diversity committee. “We came together as a group and had Hispanic cinema movies played on closed circuit television, put Hispanic history notes in the plan of the day, held Hispanic dance classes and put decorations up around the ship.”
A common theme of the celebration was that diversity isn’t what separates individuals; it’s what makes the overall team even stronger.
“Today we proudly serve alongside each other despite any of the differences we have,” said U.S. Marines Gunnery Sgt. Orlando Villalobos, another guest speaker at the event. “I think when you look at those differences we have as the strengths, then we respect and embrace those differences.”
This sentiment was reiterated by Capt. Pete Collins, San Diego’s commanding officer, in his closing remarks.
“This is a fantastic celebration for a fantastic bit of our heritage,” said Collins. “It’s just another piece that strengthens our diversity, and that diversity is what makes us strong as a nation, as a force, and as team San Diego.”
San Diego is deployed with the America Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to support maritime security and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.
The America ARG and 15th MEU provide senior U.S. military leadership and partners with a flexible force which can rapidly respond to contingencies and crises within a region. With ships, aircraft, troops, and logistical equipment, the ARG/MEU is a self-contained and self-sustained task force capable of conducting a wide range of military operations including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.