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NEWS | Oct. 17, 2016

Local performers celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with Fort Gordon Army Reserve Unit

By Sgt. Anthony Hooker 335th Signal Command (Theater)

FORT GORDON, Georgia - In a continuing effort to highlight ethnic observances throughout the year, the Army Reserve’s 359th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade, 335th Signal Command (Theater), hosted inspirational speaker Sofia Mezon and dance troup “The Sion Dancers” here Sept. 18 in a festive celebration of Hispanic Heritage month.
 
The Sion Dancers, comprised mostly of young children who attend Columbia County and Aiken County schools, performed traditional latin dances such as the bachata’ and salsa during four musical selections, including a Puerto Rican ballad and ‘Necisita Mexico’.

During one of the songs, the performers got the Soldiers involved by pulling them onto the dance floor to engage in a celebratory dance.  Those Soldiers included Lt. Col. Alfred Antonik, the deputy commander of the 359th TTSB, and Sgt. Nequita Hinds, the unit administrator for the 359th TTSB.  After the dance Hinds said she was very impressed with the dancers and that the performances made the event very personal.
 
“It was not just an event that our Hispanic members would want to see, but something that a lot of the Soldiers enjoyed being a part of,” Hinds said. “Col. Antonik was having a great time – we had to pull him off the floor!”

Sgt. 1st Class Jasmine Pruitt, the senior equal opportunity advisor for the 359th TTSB, said the intent of the program was to educate Soldiers and their family members about the diverse heritages that make up the Army team. She said the event shed a different light on the EO program, specifically that it is not only a resource but that it also helped remove some of the negative connotation that is sometimes associated with EO.

“Soldiers came forward to comment that they never experienced an event such as this and had no idea this is what EO could do,” Pruitt said in an emailed statement. “They also volunteered to take part in future observances that were specific to their heritage.”

1st Lt. Mitchell Hutchinson, platoon leader of the 359th support operations, said he also enjoyed the event, pointing out how the interaction amongst Soldiers during the event helped him embrace the importance of the ceremony.

“I didn’t feel like this was some program I had to attend,” Hutchinson replied. “The authenticity (of the performers) helped but I even learned one of my coworkers was Panamanian, which I had no idea he was.  I feel like the facts the speaker (Mezon) added helped me embrace a better appreciation for the Hispanic culture.”

Mary Seda and her children (Jonathan, Gabriela and Gianna) have been members of the Sion Dancers since 2012. Mary said the group performs from August to December throughout the Central Savannah River Area, including the VA hospital, Christmas parades and the Georgia and South Carolina welcome centers, but this was the first time performing for an Army Reserve unit. Mary, a military spouse, said the group’s performances allow her to celebrate the family’s heritage as well as create connections with local residents and people who are in the area for a limited time.

“We enjoy bringing our culture to people,” she said.  “It’s not something that they would normally see on a daily basis.”

Pruitt thanked the guests for their contributions, and said the reactions of the attending Soldiers was uplifting to see.

“Enjoyment was evident by Soldiers’ smiles and further inquiries as the unit mingled with our guests,” she said. “I cannot explain the immense joy I felt having Soldiers approach myself and the unit’s (observation liasions) with their ideas and desire to take part in the EO program,”