Staff, their families and students from the Medical Education and Training Campus (METC) gathered at the student activity center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Sept. 30 for a Hispanic Heritage Month observation.
National Hispanic Heritage Month runs every year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 to highlight contributions and history of Hispanic-American citizens. To go in line with this year's theme, "Embracing, Enriching, and Enabling America," the staff members at Navy Medicine Training Support Center (NMTSC) decided to host an elaborate festival to embrace all aspects of the Hispanic culture including food, music, dancing, and the people themselves.
"We deploy, work long hours and even sacrifice family time to ensure the mission gets done," said Petty Officer 1st Class Patricia Lopezcruz, a dental instructor at METC who helped plan and carry out the events. "Our plan with the festival was to show students that the Navy values all the talents you may have. These may bring joy or a nice break from the routine days and enhance morale not only for them, but everyone else."
Both staff and students were encouraged to participate not only by showing up, but by dancing, playing in the band, bringing food, and creating displays with bios to show off the diverse workforce at NMTSC and METC.
"I felt our diversity council did a great job," said Lopezcruz. "It truly was a team effort. We dedicated a lot of time and effort toward this celebration. It really paid off in our student band and dancers. They looked and performed great."
Aside from the staff and student performances, they also had the Ballet Folklorico Festival and Southwest High School's Mariachi Los Dragones perform during the ceremony. The guest speaker was Lt. Cmdr. Ruben Lopez, program director for the Basic Medical Technician Corpsman Program at METC, who spoke of his past and the importance of diversity in the military.
"One of the greatest jobs that I have is every Wednesday and Thursday morning I get to see 108 new students come through the doors," Lopez said. "They come from every corner of the world, from every culture, every language, every background, every social climate. And I get to speak to them, and I get to see their faces. I get to indoctrinate them into the military of the United States. We are stronger because of our differences, and we should celebrate our differences."
Lopez gave great credit to his great aunt who helped raise him and taught him valuable lessons he continues to emulate today.
"The lesson that she taught me was, 'Keep your head high, be proud of who you are, and walk as if you are proud of who you are,'" he said. "And I try to do that. Every single one of you should be proud of who you are."
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