The strength of the Army is in its diversity.
That strength was on display Sept. 30 at the NCO during the 2022 Hispanic Heritage Month Luncheon.
“It is really amazing to be part of an Army that recognizes and appreciates the diversity that we have,” said Col. Scott White, commander of the 193rd Infantry Brigade before the 2022 Hispanic Heritage Month Luncheon Sept. 30.
Hispanic Heritage Month originated in 1968 when President Lyndon Johnson signed Spanish Week into law. Hispanic Heritage Month is held Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 each year. Sept. 15 was chosen as the starting date due to it also being the day Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua celebrate their independence.
More than 139,000 Hispanic Americans currently serve in the total force. Hispanic Soldiers comprise 17% of the active Army, a 14% growth from 1985.
“I suspect being in the American melting pot, especially this microcosm that is military culture, makes a lot of feel like we occasionally lose touch with our roots,” said Lt. Col. Claudia Pena, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion commander during the luncheon. “That’s just another reason why these events are so important. They remind us of who we are to the to diverse people we’ve worked with and are a reminder to appreciate each other more.”
She said to the Hispanic and Latino people in the audience to feel proud.
“My Family like so many immigrants arrived here to the (United State) expecting a more equitable and more inclusive society in which to raise our families …,” Pena continued. “That was not the case.”
Her father is one of the Hispanic American veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Her parents were born and raised in Guatemala, a country that had experienced 37 years of civil war that ended in 1997. Her father left to experience the American dream and drove through Mexico to attend college when he received a draft notice.
“He didn’t have to go but he went to Vietnam,” Pena said. When he redeployed in 1969, he got a job in Lynn, Massachusetts. Pena would be born in the state, and he would get his citizenship. He would go on to sponsor many family members as they applied for citizenship.
“This is a story so many immigrants from south of the border can relate to,” she added.