FORT DETRICK, Md. -- Dr. Raymond Vazquez is proud of his military and federal civilian service, spanning nearly 40 years.
But it was his Puerto Rican heritage that took center stage Sept. 28 as Vazquez served as the guest speaker during a National Hispanic Heritage Month observance at Fort Detrick.
Vazquez, who works as chief of staff for the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, which hosted the garrison-wide event, chronicled his family history, shared personal experiences and recognized numerous influential individuals of Puerto Rican descent.
“Hispanic Heritage Month just gives the general population an idea of the contributions Hispanics have made here in the U.S. and elsewhere,” Vazquez said afterward. “A lot of people don’t know about these cultures because they aren’t always common knowledge, but it’s a good time for people to learn about all their valuable contributions to our way of life.”
USAMMA is a direct reporting unit to Army Medical Logistics Command, the Army’s Life Cycle Management Command for medical materiel.
The monthlong observance, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, recognizes the contributions and rich culture of Hispanic Americans, who have had a profound and positive influence on America and the country’s commitment to family, faith, hard work and service.
“National Hispanic Heritage Month stands as a reminder of the strength the Army has and will gain through a high-quality and diverse all-volunteer force,” said observance host Col. Peter Markot, director of AMLC’s Strategic Initiatives Group.
“Hispanic Americans have an honorable record of military service dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War, and we are proud of their significant contributions to our Army and our nation,” Markot said.
The theme of the observance was “Todos Somos, Somos Uno,” which means “We are All, We are One.”
Markot said the theme reflects how the Hispanic community represents so many different cultures, colors and points of view, “yet they are together as one -- one community, one people and one vision.”
“It’s important that we routinely take the time to celebrate the diversity of one another to embrace and value the differences that make each person special and unique,” he added.
Vazquez, a Navy and Army veteran before entering civilian service, talked about the unique geography, history and food of his family’s native Puerto Rico, as well as its influence on Hawaiian culture and the impact of Hispanic service members, both from the Caribbean island and beyond.
Among them were members of the 65th Infantry Regiment, also known as the “Borinqueneers,” a nickname given to the unit by two Indian tribes that inhabited the Puerto Rican island of Borinquen.
The unit was one of the most decorated of the Korean War, with one recipient of the Medal of Honor and 10 more who received the Distinguished Service Cross. The unit also compiled 256 Silver Stars, 606 Bronze Stars and 2,771 Purple Hearts.
“They fought gallantly in Korea,” Vazquez said.
Many other Hispanics also served in the unit, including then a young first lieutenant of Mexican-American descent named Richard Edward Cavazos, who in 1982 became the first Hispanic four-star general.
Cavazos was honored earlier this year as the new namesake for the installation formerly known as Fort Hood in Texas.
Reflecting on his own service, Vazquez said he first decided to join the military to follow in his father’s footsteps, but he continues to serve today for his grandchildren “so they can have the same privileges and freedoms that I had.”