MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- ` The contributions of the Hispanic culture are recognized annually during National Hispanic Heritage Month, and the station hosted a luncheon Sept. 19 at the Sonoran Pueblo club to honor the efforts of local Hispanic people.
Organized by the Yuma office of the Bureau of Land Management, the luncheon featured Hispanic food and entertainment, and the perspective of guest speaker Nieves Riedel, owner of Reidel Construction in San Luis.
"We have to celebrate the diversity of every group, and it's especially pleasant to celebrate Hispanic heritage here on the border," said Maureen Merrell, acting field manager for the BLM's Yuma field office.
As part of the Yuma Area Governmental Alliance, the air station was an ideal host for the event, Merrell said.
Throughout the history of America, warriors of Hispanic origin have fought in battles to preserve the nation's ideals. In all, 38 Hispanic men including 12 Marines earned the Medal of Honor, many posthumously, for fighting with distinction.
One such Marine, Pfc. Eugene A. Obregon, earned the Medal of Honor after he gave his life saving wounded Marines in Korea. His hometown of Los Angeles recently dedicated an interstate exchange in his name, the Eugene A. Obregon Exchange, as well as erecting a monument in Obregon's name, dedicated to honoring Latino Medal of Honor recipients, according to a report by Sgt. 1st Class Connie Dickey of the Army News Service.
A strong tie to one's Hispanic roots is important for Latino Marines, according to Lance Cpl. Jezreel Ramirez, a Mexican native who recently became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
"I really wanted to see how many proud Hispanics were going to come (to the luncheon)," Ramirez said. "There were a lot who showed up, which is good because they didn't forget their roots. You should never ignore where you come from."
The purpose of National Hispanic Heritage Month, according to a proclamation from President George W. Bush, is to "provide us an opportunity to express deep appreciation to Hispanic Americans for their countless contributions to our society and to pay tribute again to America's distinctive diversity."
In trying to give the luncheon a more fesitve, entertaining mood, Rosemary Borunda, a BLM employee who organized the event, sought out the services of Evelyn Molina, a Cibola High School sophomore and amateur singer. The teenage vocalist sang the Star Spangled Banner before the luncheon began and sang three other Hispanic tunes, including "La cancion mexicana."
"I guess I feel proud to be here and being able to sing at a Hispanic event," Molina said. "I think it's fun and very inspirational."
The National Hispanic Heritage Month began Sept. 15 and continues through Oct. 15.