September 18, 2010

Cultures, Families Gather at Unity Day

NJ National Guard began to hold the “Unity Day” event, an annual event at the Fort Dix Army Base that brings representatives from different cultures under one roof to celebrate each other’s diverse backgrounds. Now in its twelfth year, the event hosted over 600 soldiers and their families, along with food and music from dozens of different cultures.

FORT DIX, NJ - Every day, soldiers spend their time training for combat. They roll in the dirt, run in rain, and crawl through the sand together, all in the effort to prepare for war. However, through all this training, they are rarely able to separate themselves from the training. They are never given the chance to get to know each other beyond the name stitched on their chest.

Because of this, the NJ National Guard began to hold the “Unity Day” event, an annual event at the Fort Dix Army Base that brings representatives from different cultures under one roof to celebrate each other’s diverse backgrounds. Now in its twelfth year, the event hosted over 600 soldiers and their families, along with food and music from dozens of different cultures.

“This is a beautiful event,” said Army Msg. Mike Hose. “I remember when it started; it was a really small event, maybe. Now it has just grown amazingly. And it’s not just a few Army guys, but it’s everyone from different parts of the military.”

“It’s great that we can enjoy each other’s ethnicity,” said Army Maj. Wendy Cordrey. “This is my first time here, and I can’t believe the turnout. We all work together, but we never get a chance to get to know each other. I am really enjoying this unique experience.”

Beginning in 1998, the all-volunteer event was simply designed to be a break from the day-to-day work that goes into being a soldier. Since then, it has grown to feature music, games, and information to describe each of the different cultures that are represented in the US Military.

“We wanted to celebrate our pride and heritage,” said Army Col. Jorge Martinez. “We wanted to have something to break the tedium of training. It started out just for food, but it has grown tremendously since then. And the great thing about it is that it is voluntary. Nobody was given orders to come, they just wanted to.”

Organizers of the event are thrilled with the turnout. They hope that this event grows more in the years to come, as it recognizes the most unique aspect of the United States and the Military: its diversity.

“The Military, just like the country, is filled with people from all parts of the world, said Martinez. “With all the different people and backgrounds that make up the military, this event is great because it is, above all else, uniquely American.”