Let’s celebrate our diversity

  • Published
  • By Maj. Anthony Hernandez
  • 62nd Comptroller Squadron commander
Hispanic Heritage Month is a time for Hispanic Americans to affirm our past and set future goals. It is also a time to increase awareness of Hispanic culture. 

There is no such thing as a generic Hispanic. Some Hispanics are recent immigrants from Latin America. Others trace their ancestry as far back as the Spanish conquest. 

Some Hispanics are anglicized but treasure their cultural roots, while others have nearly lost that heritage in their assimilation into the greater American culture. 

Some Hispanics have Spanish names; others do not. Some speak Spanish, others speak both English and Spanish and some speak only English. 

In the end, as with most cultures ... we simply are who we are. 

Currently, there are more than 85,000 Hispanic Americans on active duty, representing approximately 7 percent of all active duty personnel. Americans with Hispanic heritage represent more than 6.2 percent of the Army, 8.1 percent of the Navy, 11 percent of the Marine Corps and 4.4 percent of the Air Force. While these percentages may seem small, there are many reasons to celebrate. 

Hispanic Americans enter the military for many of the same reasons as other Americans -- to seek opportunities for education, growth, advancement, skills and professional success. They can use skills learned in the military to improve their lives, their families and build stronger communities. 

Other factors include a strong sense of patriotism, defense of our democratic ideals and a simple desire to serve. In any case, Hispanic Americans contribute gallantly to the defense of our nation and continue to do so every day. 

The military and civilian contributions of Hispanic Americans reflect a rich military history. Hispanics have fought valiantly in every war in U.S. history. 

Forty-two men of Hispanic origin have earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, including 21 who sacrificed their lives. You can read up on these brave men with a simple internet search. 

Finally, although their number is small, there is a special pride I see in our young Hispanic men and women currently serving on active duty. 

I see it when I visit the medical clinic, when I speak to maintenance troops and see it in aircrews returning from a long temporary duty assignment. 

Watching these men and women successfully interact, work and live among other Americans from different cultures reinforces my belief in our country. I know we are fighting on the right side. It gives me both hope and reassurance to know that these young folks will someday move on to become senior noncommissioned officers, senior officers and community leaders. It should give you the same belief regardless of your ethnicity.