GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- Residents of Naval Station (NAVSTA) Guantanamo Bay (GTMO), Cuba, marked the 41st anniversary of Cuban American Friendship Day with a 5K run and luncheon at the Windjammer Feb. 12.
The event recognized the contributions and friendship of the more than 30 Cuban special-category residents who still reside at the naval station and the three commuters who still pass through the Northeast Gate daily to work.
Cuban special-category residents are employees of the base who remained on-station after the United States and Cuba broke diplomatic ties in the early 1960s. The commuters are responsible for taking pensions to retired Cuban NAVSTA GTMO employees who live off base. The U.S. and Cuban government have no diplomatic relations so money cannot be electronically transferred to them.
Cuban American Friendship Day was started by Rear Adm. J. B. Hildreth in 1969, when more than 2,000 residents were living aboard the base. As of Feb. 12, 39 residents remain.
"Even though the size of the Cuban community here in GTMO has decreased over the decades, the friendships have grown," said Capt. Steven H. Blaisdell, NAVSTA GTMO's commanding officer. "The legacy of dedicated and distinguished service, of friendship, and of generosity continues."
The guest speaker for the luncheon was Army Col. Doris J. Acevedo-Selpa, the command inspector general for Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay.
Cuban American Friendship Day is held on the last Friday in January, but had to be postponed this year because of NAVSTA GTMO's support of Operation Unified Response.
"It was almost cancelled due to the activity on the naval station for the Haitian relief business," said Beverly Pavon, president of the Cuban American Friendship Association. "The command master chief on base told me we must carry on tradition, and so we did."
For more news from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, visit www.navy.mil/local/guantanamo/.