Service members and Department of Defense civilians in Basra, Iraq, celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month at the United States Division-South Resiliency Campus with music, cultural dances and dinner Sept. 30.

Lt. Col. Enrique De La Paz, a native of Mexico City who immigrated to the U.S. in 1972 and settled in Las Vegas, was the guest speaker for the celebration.

Shortly after his 17th birthday, De La Paz, his brother and sisters left Mexico and headed to Los Angeles to be with his mother. It was his first experience on an aircraft.

De La Paz spoke momentarily about his experience arriving in America and recalled one particular conversation with his Mother.

"I never thought I would work until I graduated from the university," De La Paz said.

De La Paz recalled a conversation with his mother when he arrived in America. When he said he was enjoying school, she said he had to enjoy working. When the young De La Paz responded that his father would not make him go to work, she simply asked if he wanted to go back to Mexico.

Thus a new life began; De La Paz found work, went to college and started a family.
De La Paz met his wife, Diane Beatty, in Nevada and are now the parents of six children and seven grandchildren with one more on the way.

"We have a very close relationship," De La Paz said. "I've been privileged to be married for 32 years. There are only two things that can make me cry: my wife and Family and love of my country.

De La Paz is now a staff officer with the 1st Infantry Division and United States Division-South.
Although he speaks proudly of his ethnic background and feels he comes from a rich culture, De La Paz continues to praise being an American and ties the mixes of cultures as part of what makes America great.

"I take the best of what my culture brings, which is love of Family, love of country, and to work hard and excel in everything you do," De La Paz said, "and that goes hand-in-hand with what our American heritage is, which intertwines many cultures, making a stronger country."

"I never had any challenges (being Hispanic); I had opportunities," De La Paz said.

Hispanic Americans like De La Paz have distinguished themselves throughout the Army's history.

In the Korean War, an all-Hispanic Regular Army regiment, the 65th Infantry Regiment known as the Borinqueneers, defeated a Chinese army division in a three-day battle.
In Vietnam, Roy P. Benavidez saved the lives of eight men while surrounded by a battalion of North Vietnamese soldiers and was eventually awarded the Medal of Honor

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, recognizing the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the United States, including those 200,000 serving in the United States military.

Today, Hispanic Americans continue to proudly serve the U.S. Army, making up about 12 percent of the service."

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