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'Two hearts, one spirit in friendship'Edit

Story by MC1 Robert Lamb, Public Affairs

Just moments after sunrise on Tuesday, Mr. Harry Henry, Mr. Luis LaRosa and Mr. Ricardo Simono entered U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay through the Northeast Gate from Caimanera, Cuba, as they’ve done for the past half century. They’re on their way to their jobs with the NAVSTA Supply and MWR departments.

But on this day a little something special was awaiting their arrival, an invitation to today’s Cuban/American Friendship Day celebration, presented by Zaida Brewer, president of the Cuban/American Association; CAPT Mark Leary, NAVSTA Commanding Officer; CDR Sylvester Moore, NAVSTA Executive Officer; and Maj. George Nunez, Commanding Officer of Marine Corps Security Force Company-Guantanamo.

Today is Cuban-American Friendship Day. This annual event has been celebrated at GTMO for the past 38 years. It is held to honor the people of Cuba who continued to walk through the gate, those who reside in our community, and those who have made lasting friendships with the people who live and work on station.

“It honors the strong bond built by the many years of friendship and the continuous outstanding work ethics made by our special friends,” said Brewer.

Cuban commuters have worked alongside GTMO residents and servicemembers for the past 104 years. As recently as 1985, there were more than 50 Cuban commuters who walked daily through the Northeast Gate to support the mission of the base. Today there are only three, all between the ages of 78 and 85.

“It’s important, not only to recognize all of the many years of service that each has given in support of the base’s many Cuban/American Friendship Day Luncheon operations and missions, but also to remember their outstanding community contributions as well,” added Brewer.

Among the activities for Cuban-American Friendship Day was the annual run, which started this morning at the Northeast Gate, and progressed to Phillips Park and back to the Windjammer Club, where the day’s signature event begins at noon.

The guest speaker for this year’s Cuban-American Friendship Day luncheon is Migdalia Hettler, currently the Deputy Supply Officer, Naval Air Station, Key West, a former base employee and friend to the GTMO and Cuban community.

Hettler was born and raised in Santurce, Puerto Rico, and began college studies at the University of Puerto Rico at the early age of 16. She eventually graduated in 1968 with a degree in Business Administration.

She married a Navy chief, who is now retired, and they have three children and eight grandchildren. Early in her marriage she was a Navy Ombudsman, and was named the Naval Security Group, Galeta Island, Canal Zone Navy Wife of the Year in 1972.

She began working in GTMO in 1981 as a Navy Civil Service employee in the Navy Legal Service Office, as the Judge Advocate General Spanish translator and assistant Cuban affairs officer, providing immigration and naturalization services and support to the Cuban (commuters and special category residents) and Filipino communities. She also served as a Navy Ombudsman here until 1985. She later transferred to the Supply Department, serving in a number of different capacities.

During her time in GTMO, Hettler was twice named the Cuban-American Friendship Day American of the Year, Guantanamo Bay Woman of the Year, and Athlete of the Year. She also received many service awards and recognition for her work with minority groups, as well as military services and organizations.

“Mig Hettler is a long-time base employee and friend to our Cuban community,” said Brewer. “We are very pleased she accepted our invitation to return to GTMO as our guest speaker.”