JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – National Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968 as National Hispanic Heritage Week. It wasn’t until 1989, when former President George H.W. Bush declared the 31-day period from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month that the observation became a monthlong celebration.
It’s no coincidence Hispanic Heritage Month begins Sept. 15. The date coincides with the anniversaries of Independence Day for five Central American nations. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua all declared their independence from Spain Sept. 15, 1821.
Hispanic Americans have made major contributions to the nation throughout history. One area of contribution has been within the U.S. armed forces.
Dating back to the Revolutionary War, Hispanic Americans have bravely fought on the front lines. The U.S. Army Center of Military History estimates between 400,000 and 500,000 Hispanics served during World War II.
According to the Defense Manpower Data Center, the Hispanic community makes up 17.6% of the active-duty U.S. armed forces, numbering 235,972 as of July 2021. Currently, 61 Hispanic or Latino heritage U.S. service members have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest medal for valor in combat.
“In the Hispanic community, protecting our family means everything,” said Sgt. Jorge Obregon, mechanical engineer with 864th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. “I am in the Army, and it hasn’t been easy being away from my parents, but I know how proud they are of me for serving my country.”
During the month, it is customary for the military to celebrate Hispanic heritage and culture as well as honor Hispanic involvement that has helped shape the nation. Some celebrations may include cultural art displays, cultural feasts, guest speakers and colorful dance performances.
“This is a lifelong celebration of teaching our children about our culture and history,” said Cpl. Ashely Martinez, a logistician from the 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at JBLM and the daughter of an Air Force veteran.
The military’s high level of diversity allows for people of all backgrounds to have the opportunity to serve, which creates a stronger and more dynamic force.
“I’ve served for almost seven years, and I joined because I wanted to better myself as a person while being able to travel,” said Sgt. Abel Barajas, a mechanical engineer from the 864th Engr. Bn.
Today, like previous generations, Hispanic Soldiers can be proud of their significant contributions to the U.S. armed forces and the values that unite all service members.
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