FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) - As guest dancer Natasha Ruiz-Freeman moved to a Mark Anthony hit, the sound reminded many of home, as soldiers and civilians alike came out to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month.
"The Army is getting better in its diversity and its inclusion, and that's why we have the equal opportunity program within the military, is so we can improve with all the races and all the ethnicities," said Sergeant First Class William Blackwell.
For guest speaker Master Sergeant Luis O. Perez, who works on Fort Benning, the month is about taking the time to realize all the contributions of Latinos in the Army, dating back to the Civil War.
While soldiers say all who join the Army have a sense of service and love for America, Perez explains the special perspective of Hispanic service members whose culture and desire to fulfill the American dream often leads, he says, to dedicated soldiers.
"Hispanic-Americans believe in hard work, Hispanic-Americans believe in determination, and doing the absolute best you can at everything," said Perez.
Thursday's presentation also included a video of prominent Hispanic figures, along with details of awards Hispanic soldiers have received, which include 61 Medal of Honor recipients. MSG. Perez says it reminds him of the strong work ethic that will continue to attract Hispanic recruits.
"I went to Santo Domingo and there was not even one person who was not working, to include kids. We have in this country people who don't appreciate how easy they have it, in essence when compared to other people," said Perez.
Hispanic Heritage month began on Thursday, Sept. 15 and will continue until Saturday, Oct. 15.