Vermont Guard Hosts 4th Annual Multicultural Event

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Richard Mekkri
  • 158th Fighter Wing

The Vermont National Guard gathered together over drill weekend to celebrate the 4th annual multicultural event, November 5th, at the 158th Fighter Wing.

“Every year we host a multicultural event to showcase the heritage and diversity of our members,” said U.S. Army Maj. Todd Connolly, Diversity Equity Inclusion director for the Vermont National Guard. “It's an opportunity for us, both Army and Air, to get together to celebrate our differences, to celebrate our similarities and to really showcase where our members come from.”

According to a 2020 fact sheet from the American Immigration Council, Vermont has a small but growing community of immigrants. As of 2018, that number was more than 30,000. Connolly said he hopes that events like these will foster relationships within various Vermont communities by growing an understanding of the diverse immigrant populations and strengthening bonds within the Vermont Guard community. One of those immigrants attended this years’s celebration.

“I'm from Russia, originally, yes, raised and born,” said Sgt. 1st Class Yulia Benson, percussionist and keyboard player with the 172nd Public Affairs Detachment, 40th Army band. “I finished university in Russia and then came here as a student and then, you know, by accident join the Army.”

Benson was one of many Guardsmen who attended the day’s festivities. According to Connolly, there were between 150 and 200 Airmen and Soldiers who attended this years event. He would also like to see it grow even larger.

“My goal, and future vision, is to really host an event where we can celebrate with community involvement,” said Connolly. “I would like to see an event with the Vermont National Guard side-by-side with community members sharing (cultural) food, drink, music, and dancing.”

Benson, a 16-year Army veteran, provided Kvass (a carbonated Russian beverage with a nearly 1000-year-old history) to the event. She said she sees great value in gatherings like these, considering the current global climate.

“We all want the same things,” Benson said. “We want to eat good food. We want to take care of our kids. We want to have a good life and I think these events are definitely part of it. It shows that we are not different, even if we came from another country, or we share different religion. It's all the same.”