ORLANDO, Fla. -- Angel Cruz's grandfathers left Puerto Rico to fight for America. Six decades later, Cruz earned a prestigious honor as one of seven Hispanic STEM Military and Civilian Heroes.

"Displayed proudly in my parent's house are two American flags folded in triangular forms," he said during an emotional acceptance speech. "These flags are in remembrance of my grandfathers who left Puerto Rico to fight for freedom."

Command Sgt. Maj. Hector Marin of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command presented Cruz with the award at the 2010 Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Marin praised Cruz's scientific efforts to support American Soldiers.

"He is a wonderful product of two Army families," Marin said. "Both his maternal and paternal grandfathers were career U.S. Army enlisted Soldiers and veterans of World War II and the Korean War.

"Mr. Cruz is a consummate professional who is passionate about his work and is steadfastly dedicated to empowering, unburdening and protecting our Warfighters in support of the Army mission."

Cruz spoke with pride about his Hispanic heritage and the chance to serve his country.

"Like the countless others involved in world conflicts, my grandfathers were like two tiny grains of sand in a long, sandy beach," he said. "However, for me, they are two grains of sand that sparkle when the sun shines just right.

"I work with pride as a Latino in a STEM field. I would like to thank my family and RDECOM for providing me the opportunities to support my country."

Cruz, who earned a mechanical engineering degree from Bucknell University, joined the RDECOM's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in 2006. He is a team lead in the Test, Reliability and Evaluation Branch.

Cruz was also the lead engineer on a new tactical force protection system and the lead technical engineer on the U.S. Marines Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles.