Texas Guardsmen celebrate Cinco De Mayo
Sgt. 1st Class Jose M. Orozco, from Hillsborough, Texas, takes a swing at a piñata during a Cinco de Mayo celebration at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq May 5. Every month, the Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment celebrate a different cultural holiday.

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq - For every Orozco, there's an Alderman. For every Garcia, there's a Wallace. For every Rodriguez, there's a Scholari.

The Texas Army National Guardsmen of 2nd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment (Task Force Avalanche) are as culturally diverse as their state. In recognition of this shared heritage, the unit celebrates a different culturally-inspired holiday every month.

In May, Cinco de Mayo was a natural choice, especially with so many Soldiers in the unit of Mexican American descent, said Capt. Johnny R. Guerrero, commander, Alpha Company; Guerrero's own mother was born in Mexico.

"Down in south Texas-even anywhere in Texas-it's a big celebration," the native of San Antonio said. "We celebrate it here because it gives Soldiers a chance to get together and have a good time."

The Texas Guardsmen celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a Mexican-style barbecue, a piAfA+-ata, and a nighttime showing of "Desperado," a movie Guerrero admitted was selected more for its entertainment value and for simply taking place in Mexico.

Preparations began weeks ago, said Sgt. 1st Class Jose M. Orozco, of Hillsborough, Texas. The battalion staff scrounged for enough food to feed several hundred Soldiers, including a goat for traditional Mexican stew.

Friends and Family provided everything else, including the universal piAfA+-ata.

A common misconception in the United States is that Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican Independence Day, which is actually Sept. 16.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, when a Mexican army defeated a larger French army. The defeat, however, did not deter the French from invading the country and installing an Austrian Hapsburg emperor. It wasn't until 1866, after a protracted guerrilla war and under pressure from the United States, that the French finally withdrew.

Despite the significance of the battle, Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday in Mexico nor is it widely celebrated outside of Puebla. It is, though, a popular holiday outside Mexico as a day to celebrate Mexican heritage and culture, not unlike St. Patrick's Day for Irish Americans.

The irony of Texans celebrating a Mexican military triumph 26 years after Texas itself fought for independence from Mexico is not lost on some of the Guardsmen of 2nd Bn., 142nd Inf. Regt.

Aside from the cultural recognition, Guerrero said the holiday, at least for Texans like them, is more an opportunity to get together with friends and Family, even if it's in Iraq.

Task Force Avalanche, 2nd Bn., 142nd Inf. Regt., escorts fuel convoys from the Jordan border and then throughout Anbar province in support of Coalition operations.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16