Airman reflects on his Hispanic heritage

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Megan Geiger
  • 62d Airlift Wing

Imagine hearing tales from your mother risking her life to flee a civil war-torn country to find safety in the U.S. when she was only 20 years old, embarking on the dangerous journey with a group of strangers leaving everything she knew and loved behind.

This was the story U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Edwin Leon heard growing up and inspired him to serve. Leon holds his family’s history and their enduring strength close at heart, and it is what drives him to give back to his parents and country.

“My mom now has her residency; she loves this country,” stated Leon. “This is the country she’s known for her whole life, so I wanted to give back to that.”

Leon, a 62d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron support flight training monitor, joined the Air Force in 2020 to serve his country and create new opportunities for himself and his family.

Leon values his family and culture, and attributes his strong moral compass and foundation from his upbringing. His mother is from El Salvador while his father is from Mexico.

“It definitely made me more disciplined to grow up with parents that were Latino,” said Leon. “They held me to standards that I feel made it easier for me to be in the Air Force. Sir and ma’am were always something we said back home, so when I was in [Basic Military Training], it was like second nature to me.”

Growing up in the Chicago, Illinois, area, Leon spent his childhood surrounded by his two older siblings and many cousins with whom he shares a close bond. With his grandmother having 13 kids, they had a large family. Many of Leon’s family members served their country and communities as service members, teachers and medical personnel throughout the years. His uncles were in the Marines and the Army in Mexico. He said, because of this, a career in public service is something that comes naturally to him.

“My culture was a big part of me growing up,” said Leon. “In our family, we look after each other and that’s kind of something that I brought into the Air Force. I wanted to be there for the younger Airmen; someone that actually cares and doesn’t just assume they’ll figure it out.”

A crew chief by trade, Leon works hard on and off the flight line to create a positive and supportive work environment for his unit. His experiences growing up in a large family, and his Hispanic heritage, influences how he serves as an Airman today.

Leon explained that having a large family taught him how to work with people with different personalities, motivations and learning styles, which has given him the ability to have patience and understanding with those he works alongside in the Air Force.

According to Master Sgt. Franklin Franco, Team McChord development advisor, Leon set himself apart from Airmen in previous classes during an Airman Professional Enhancement Seminar, which was recently renamed as the Junior Enlisted Foundations Course. The program included Air Force and Coast Guard service members and provided a space for junior enlisted to talk with senior enlisted members about effective leadership. Franco noticed how quickly Leon made the Coast Guard member in his group feel included and jumped at the opportunity to share his love for his heritage. On their last day of the seminar, Leon organized a potluck with his classmates and brought in his home-made tamales to share.

“Senior Airman Leon is a leader amongst his peers and reinforces diversity and inclusion,” said Franco. “He was asking great questions and was learning how to be a leader while applying it in real-time. It doesn’t matter what your rank is, one person can make a difference.”

Leon strives to reach new educational and professional goals and continues to lead by example in and outside of the Air Force. He works hard to incorporate his heritage in every aspect of his life, and his determination and proactive leadership skills unite and improve not only his unit, but the Air Force as a whole.