USS PELELIU, At sea (NNS) -- Hundreds of Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) took a break from normal operations and observed Hispanic Heritage Month with a "Fiesta Style" celebration Sept. 26 in the ship's hangar bay.
Hispanic Heritage month runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 and is a time for individuals to recognize the contributions of Hispanic Americans. Peleliu's celebration included a piņata, authentic food, and traditional dances. The event was also planned to coincide with a "Steel Beach" picnic to allow maximum participation by the crew.
"Hispanic is not just a racial identification," said Chief Navy Career Counselor (SW/SCW) Carlos Lemas who was the guest speaker for the event. "Hispanic is more of a regional identification like saying 'North American'."
Lemas spoke about the many contributions of Hispanic Americans and their proud tradition of serving in the U.S. Navy in every conflict since the American Revolution. He recognized the service of more than 63,000 Hispanic Sailors and civilians who comprise approximately 11 percentof the Navy's active, reserve and civilian forces.
"Hispanic Heritage Month is not only a period to recognize the Hispanic Americans for their heritage and culture, but it is also to celebrate the contributions of the many Hispanic Americans who have served and continue to serve our country proudly," said Lemas.
Sailors who attended the event said that they really enjoyed the dancing demonstrations.
"The Salsa was my favorite dance to watch because it's what we do back home," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuels) (AW) Rafael Zelaya, who was born in El Salvador and works in Peleliu's air department. "All the performers stuck to the traditional dances and did so with pride and respect. They made me want to go out there and dance with them. It was like being at home again."
Hispanic Heritage Month was established in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan, expanding the heritage week established in 1968. Forty-three men of Hispanic origin have earned the Medal of Honor, including 21 who sacrificed their lives. Latinos are the largest single ethnic group, in proportion to the number who served, to earn this prestigious award.
Peleliu is the flag ship of the Peleliu Expeditionary Strike Group (PELESG) and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit which is currently conducting operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. The PELESG departed San Diego May 4 on a scheduled deployment.
For more news from USS Peleliu (LHA 5) - Peleliu Expeditionary Strike Group, visit www.navy.mil/local/lha5/.