Garrison gathers world cultures ‘under one roof’

U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart made history May 6 when it hosted Diversity Day, a multicultural event with performances and informational booths representing countries around the world.

The celebration was the first of its kind at any Army garrison in Europe, according to event coordinator Yasmin Rosa, the garrison Equal Employment Opportunity Special Emphasis Program manager.

Despite a steady rain, crowds came to the fest tent on Panzer Kaserne to observe the performances, which kicked off with a parade of the world’s flags, held by close to 200 sixth-grade students from Robinson Barracks Elementary/Middle School, Böblingen EMS and a German high school in Sindelfingen.

The children carried the paper flags to the song “We Are the World,” which was also the event theme. 

“It was a great way to get all these different cultures [represented],” said Adriel Moran, 12, who held the Cuban flag in the parade. “Everybody [has] a part, everyone’s together under one roof.”

The abundance of cultures in one place is what first gave Rosa the idea for Diversity Day, she said; in this case, it was the variety of cultural groups in the Stuttgart community, both local and military.

“When I got here two years ago, I noticed how diverse this place was,” she said. “We live in a place with people from all over the world.”

In addition, Stuttgart’s two major combatant commands, U.S. Africa Command and U.S. European Command, have a presence in different parts of the world, she added.

Throughout the event, EUCOM and AFRICOM ­­— which helped host the event — and several other tenant units manned booths representing the different countries of the world. For example, 52nd Signal Battalion represented Australia, while EUCOM showcased photos and artifacts from many European countries.

Special Operations Command Europe and SOC Africa’s joint booth was made to look like an African hut, and contained mounted animal specimens and knives from their area of operation: the Sahara Desert.

“It’s pretty cool, all of the stands,” said Goldie Rose Bougher, 12, as she examined African deer and antelope displays. “Animals fascinate me.”

Other agencies, including the United Service Organizations and American Red Cross, also supported the event with informational booths. Food samples and a variety of lunch options, from lumpia to steak, were available from vendors outside.

On the fest tent stage, performers from the local and military communities demonstrated belly dancing, salsa, Irish step dance and many other cultural offerings.

 The Indonesian culture group, Kridha Budaya Sari, performed Indonesian dances in traditional costumes.

“We want to show the beauty of Indonesia,” said Dhiana Grabert, a group member.
Megan Miller, an Army spouse with Norwegian heritage, sang folk songs from Norway and modeled a traditional Norwegian dress and hat in the event’s multicultural fashion show.

 “We have so much richness around us … the stories and people,” she said. “I just wanted to do my part to show a little bit.”

The variety of booths and performers was exactly what Rosa envisioned when she first came up with the idea for Diversity Day.

“I think they’re really embracing the concept,” she said.
However, she hopes Diversity Day will continue to influence community members’ thoughts and attitudes after the event is over.

“The most important thing [to learn] is that we’re not that different from each other,” Rosa said. “Inside, we are the same. We need to appreciate each other for what we are.”