USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (IKE) celebrated Hispanic-American Heritage Month with a cultural and historical presentation on the ship's mess deck, Oct. 7.
Coordinated by IKE's Operations and Deck Departments, the celebration aboard IKE featured presenters who spoke about the history and impact of Hispanics in the Navy, guest speakers who shared about their personal journeys as Hispanic Americans, and Hispanic cuisine, which was available after the event.
The event was held in conjunction with the nationally recognized Hispanic Heritage Month, observed from, Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, which celebrates the history, culture and contributions of Hispanic Americans. This year's theme is "Diversity United, Building America's Future Today."
"A lot of planning went into it the event," said Operations Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Tiffany R. Claiborne, the Operations Department coordinator. "We wanted to make sure that we informed and educated the crew by putting together a very fun, festive celebration that people would remember and at the same time pay homage to our Hispanic sisters and brothers in the military."
Guest speakers Chief Warrant Officer 3 Cesar A. Martino, one of IKE's tactical action officers, and Master Chief Sonar Technician (Surface) (SW/IUSS) Gary Lebron, Destroyer Squadron 28 senior enlisted leader, shared their stories and elaborated on the significance of diversity in America.
"Our culture has intertwined with the American culture. It's a melting pot, and that's why America is so great," said Martino, whose family immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba under a special program that allowed children to take refuge in the U.S. in the early 1960s. "It allows us to be American's first and at the same time practice our unique culture and heritage."
The diversity of America's Navy leads to continual growth and betterment of its people and the organization overall. It is because of diversity, that, "everyone has a story to tell," said Lebron. "The people you work with each bring a different background and mind set that should be valued."
"The diversity today's Navy is full of life experience that you won't get anywhere else," said Lebron. "The people you meet and things that you experience with those folks, you will take with you forever"
Sailors feasted on a variety of dishes, including shrimp ceviche, rice with chicken, Puerto Rican style yellow rice, potato salad, chicken stew and tamales.
Hispanic Heritage Month has origins in Hispanic Heritage Week, which was established in September 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded the week and created Hispanic Heritage Month from, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Hispanic American Heritage Month displays the contributions made by those whose roots trace back to Spain, Mexico, Central and South America.
Hispanic Americans make up a substantial portion of Sailors in the Navy. Today, there are more than 58,000 Hispanic active duty and Reserve Sailors and officers, and nearly 15,000 Hispanics serve within the Navy Total Force, along with four Hispanic flag officers and 172 Hispanic master chiefs.
The importance and impact of Hispanic Heritage on the Navy was made clear to all those involved in IKE's ceremony. There was a certain sense of pride in the air as the Sailors enjoyed the various Hispanic dishes.
"I'm proud of the diversity the Navy has," said Quartermaster Second Class (SW/AW) Efrain Torres, whose parents are from Mexico. "At the end of the day, it makes America a stronger nation."
IKE is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations and is supporting missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
For more news from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn69/.