Celebrating Hispanic heritage

by the 86th Airlift Wing Equal Opportunity Office

National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates and recognizes the contributions Hispanic citizens have made to American society and culture.

The month-long celebration began Sept. 15 and continues through Monday.

Sept. 15th is significant because it’s the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico declared its independence on Sept. 16 and Chile on Sept. 18. 

This year’s National Hispanic Heritage Month theme is “Diversity United, Building America’s Future Today.” 

Throughout history, Hispanic citizens have contributed tirelessly to the fabric and sustained success of our great nation.

In his presidential proclamation, President Barack Obama highlighted Hispanic citizens.

“(They) have led movements that pushed our country closer to realizing the democratic ideals of America’s founding documents, and they have served courageously as members of our armed forces to defend those ideals at home and abroad,” he said.

We honor Hispanics like Bernardo de Gálvez, colonial governor of Spanish Louisiana, who secretly sided with American colonists during the Revolutionary War and used his power to help us defeat the British, and Army veteran medical doctor Hector Perez Garcia, who served as an infantry officer, a combat engineer officer and a medical corps officer during World War II.

After his service, Garcia opened a medical practice and tended to many Hispanic veterans who were denied treatment by military hospitals.

Responding to this injustice, Garcia formed the American GI Forum to guarantee Mexican-Americans the health and education benefits to which they were entitled. 

Although these are only a couple examples, Hispanic citizens continue on with the tradition of selfless service.

According to 2011 Census figures, Hispanics account for 11 percent of our military force.

Personnel statistics for the Ramstein community indicate 13 percent of our brothers and sisters in arms identify as Hispanic.  We are united in our diversity and we should take a moment to reflect on the contributions Hispanics and all citizens are making toward building a better America.