CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan -- Marines and sailors came together Dec. 2 at The Palms on Camp Hansen to recognize the importance and benefits of different cultures in the military.
The III Marine Expeditionary Force’s equal opportunity section held its first Diversity Observance Day, organized by Master Gunnery Sgt. Rafika O. Vann, the III MEF equal opportunity adviser.
“The purpose of the Diversity Observance Day is to recognize and identify the significance of different cultures, provide a venue for education, and to observe the diversity of our armed forces,” said Vann, from Brooklyn, New York.
The event helped Marines and sailors from throughout III MEF identify culturally significant dates and develop strategies for overall awareness.
“In the U.S., we celebrate numerous observances, such as Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Holocaust Remembrance, Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender pride, Hispanic Heritage and many more,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Gonzalo A. Vasquez, the guest speaker for the event. “Diversity Observance Day celebrates all diversity, which includes not only our races but ethnic background, culture, religion, sexuality, gender and religious preferences.”
During the observance, both Vann and Vasquez spoke about their thoughts on diversity, and Marines and sailors from various cultural backgrounds.
“Equality is something that we are all striving for,” said Staff Sgt. Edward Fairley, from Gulfport, Mississippi. “It’s something that we all want, we all fight for, we all earned and we all deserve.”
Equality is a very important aspect in the military because the U.S. has a very diverse military, according to Fairley a food service specialist with 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF.
“The very motto of our country, ‘E Pluribus Unum,’ recognizes the diversity of the American people,” said Vasquez. “The traditionally understood meaning of the phrase is that out of many states emerges one single nation. Today, however, its meaning is amplified and now covers the fact that out of many people’s races, religions, languages, and ancestries has emerged a single nation: The United States of America. We are in fact a great melting pot.”
The Diversity Observance Day is planned to be an annual event for III MEF, according to Vann.
“When you think about respect, you don’t need to think about just respecting yourself, but to also respect others,” said Fairley. “Disrespect is something that we can’t stand and something that we refuse to tolerate. Remember to respect everyone.”