By David VergunSeptember 26, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 25, 2012) -- Soldiers of Hispanic heritage have a long and illustrious history of contributing to the Army above and beyond the call of duty, according to Mari Monserrate, the Army's Hispanic Outreach liaison.
Hispanic-Americans have served in all of the nation's wars from the Revolutionary War to current operations in Afghanistan, and 39 Hispanic-Americans have received the Medal of Honor.
"If you look at Army values and compare it with Hispanic cultural traits, you will see they go hand-in-hand with one another: tenacity, timeless dedication, integrity, ethics, duty, a strong sense of family," Monserrate said. "These shared values help Hispanics integrate very well into the Army."
Despite the good fit, Hispanics comprise only about 12 percent of the Army, compared to about 17 percent of the U.S. population, according to Census Bureau statistics.
"That percentage is growing," said Monserrate, adding that she expects to see bigger increases in the future, especially among second and third generations.
Several factors, including coming from countries with authoritarian governments or military dictatorships, could influence the way parents think about the Army, she said.
Monserrate is working to change any misperceptions and get the Hispanic community to support Soldiers through partnering programs. Many do already.
This month, she attended the Latina Symposium which she said recognized distinguished members of the military, both male and female.
"Great Minds in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), MAES (Society of Mexican Engineers and Scientists) and other organizations are recognizing the important contributions Hispanic Soldiers are providing to this country," she said, adding that, "besides recognizing outstanding Soldiers and other service members, Latina Symposium helps male and female Soldiers transition from uniform to civilian life."
The key to building relationships between the Army and the Hispanic community is "communications, communications, communications," she emphasized. "We want to tell the community that the Army has good education and career opportunities. And, it's a great place to serve."
Monserrate is also working to ensure that the Army's focus, "Ready and Resilient," is getting out to Hispanic Soldiers and the community. She said that message is especially resonant with Hispanic Soldiers because it stresses the importance of their own families, which is in keeping with their own values.
One of the questions Monserrate gets asked a lot is "why is Hispanic-Heritage Month Sept.15 to Oct. 15?"
"That's when a number of Spanish-speaking countries got their independence including Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua on the 15th of October, Mexico and the 16th, and Chile on the 18th," she said. "Oh, and Dia de la Raza, Columbus Day, Oct. 12, is celebrated by the Hispanic community."
Monserrate said she's excited about the Army's Hispanic outreach efforts. "The Army is working hard at being as diverse as the nation we serve. You know, this nation was build on diversity," she said.