USS KEARSARGE, AT SEA (Oct. 21, 2010) -- Staff Sergeant Mirna Ramos grew up working two jobs to help her family after they moved to the U.S. from the small town of Matachic in the desert of Chihuahua State in Mexico. It was in New Mexico where she met the man who would change her life forever: her recruiter.
With this personal story she helped open a ceremony recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month in the mess deck aboard USS Kearsarge, Oct. 15, 2010. The ceremony began a three-day celebration dedicated to Hispanic Culture, themed Heritage, Diversity, Integrity, and Honor. Thousands of Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen of Hispanic decent serve in the U.S. armed forces including many aboard USS Kearsarge.
26th MEU Commanding Officer Col. Mark J. Desens and USS Kearsarge Commanding Officer Capt. Baxter Goodley showed their support of the celebration by cutting a cake custom-made for the occasion.
The following day, the galley was filled with the aroma of authentic Hispanic cuisine, prepared and cooked by volunteers. Hispanic Marines and sailors from every element of the MEU and ship cut, mixed and cooked ingredients for the meal. Ropa Vieja (a mixture of meat, peppers, onions, and tomato sauce), black beans and rice, and Chicken Adobo were just a few of the options available for all Marines and sailors to try that night.
Also volunteering in the galley that day, Ramos said she was glad to be celebrating.
"It means a time for us to embrace each other's culture," she said, "Try each other's food, dance (to) each other's music, and just to share with everybody else."
The celebration concluded with a talent show the following night where Hispanic music and dances were performed by talented servicemembers. Members from the Navy and Marine Corps danced the Salsa, Bachata, Merengue, and other freestyle dances to the cheering and support of the crowd. Lance Cpl. Robertlee Gonzales, rifleman with Company I, Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th MEU, has been dancing since he was a child and danced Salsa in the talent show. He said his favorite part of the celebration was, "Everyone getting together, never mind rank or color."
After the talent show concluded, music was played for everyone to dance to, regardless of level of experience. An administration clerk for the 26th MEU, Lance Cpl. Yaskalia Duran, originally born in the Dominican Republic and a dancer in the talent show, invited those who were watching on the sidelines to dance, teaching them and encouraging them to be involved in the celebration.
"Hispanic heritage month means to me...everything," she said. "Just because it reminds me of what my ancestors did, what went on so that I could have every right that everybody else has."
Though the Hispanic Marines and sailors of 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit wear the same uniform, many rich and unique cultures can be found among them. Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month aboard USS Kearsarge gave them an opportunity to share them with everyone.