(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Anniston Army Depot will join the nation in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to October 15. This period was designated because many Spanish speaking countries celebrate their independence between the months of September and October. During this time, the depot’s Equal Employment Opportunity Office will distribute information by email and LAN spotlighting our Hispanic/Latino employees, display cultural art posters throughout the installation, and hold a special emphasis luncheon. The Hispanic Heritage Celebration Luncheon will take place in the parking lot of building 47 on Oct. 5 from 11:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Tickets will go on sale from Sept. 20 until Oct. 1st.

This year, the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute’s Hispanic Heritage Month Special Emphasis theme is “Esperanza”. Esperanza means “Hope” in Spanish. Annually, DEOMI recognizes men and women of particular protected groups who have served in the armed forces and have made selfless contributions to the United States of America. This year, DEOMI recognizes four individuals who embody the theme “Esperanza”: Pvt. Marcelino Serna, Seaman Apprentice William Flores, Chief Master Sgt. Lucero Stockett, and Brig. Gen. Isabel Rivera Smith.

Serna came to the United States from Mexico in 1916 at the age of 20. He is recognized for his courage while serving in WWI during the Battle of St. Mihiel in 1918. After holding the German soldiers off by skillfully firing his weapon to create the illusion that the Germans were fighting a larger force, he took 24 German soldiers prisoner. During his service, he was told he was ineligible to receive the Medal of Honor because he was only a private.  He was denied a promotion because he could not read and write English well enough to sign reports. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in June 2021, when Texas Representative Veronica Escobar introduced legislation to authorize the award. Serna is known as the one of the most decorated soldiers from Texas during WWI and the first Hispanic to be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Flores died in the line of duty while saving his shipmates in what is known as the U. S. Coast Guard’s worst peacetime disaster in 1980. Flores’ ship, the USCGC Blackthorn collided with a tanker vessel, the SS Capricorn. While his ship was sinking, he remained on board, and threw life jackets to his fellow crew members. Meanwhile, the ship was sinking and most of the crewmembers had abandoned the ship but he continued to assist trapped shipmates. The USCGC Blackthorn lost 23 of its 50 crew members.” In 2011, the Coast Guard named its third Sentinel class cutter the USCGC William Flores, in Flores’ honor.” In 2000, Flores was awarded the Coast Guard Medal, which is the highest non-combat bravery award one can receive from the Coast Guard.

Stockett came to the United States from Mexico when she was six years old. According to DEOMI, because of the opportunities she received as a child in the United States (to include free food, free housing, free education), she had always dreamed of being able to give back to the country by serving in the U.S. Air Force. She served in the 6th Air Refueling Squadron as a KC-10 boom superintendent. She received numerous awards including Best Air Refueling Section in the U.S. Air Force, Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year for the Entire Wing. In 2018, Stockett was recognized as one of the 12 Outstanding Airman of the Year.

Smith joined the U. S. Army in 1985 where she was first stationed as a Motor Transport Operator in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In 2021, after 35 years of service, she became the New York National Guard’s newest general officer and serve as the director of the joint staff for New York’s Army National Guard.

Thousands of Hispanics and Latinos have served and continue to serve and support the U.S. Armed Forces protecting our nation.

Just as in generations past, we honor our Hispanic and Latino community -military and civilian- for their significant contributions towards protecting the United States and embodying the DOD values that unite us all as one team.