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National Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Cali Elliott)


National Hispanic Heritage Month pays tribute to generations of Hispanic American whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America, and who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society. Each year, from September 15 to October 15, National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed to honor the significant events for the various Hispanic communities. The term Hispanic originates from the Latin word Hispania, it was first used by ancient Romans to describe the region of Spain they conquered in the second century B.C. The term Hispanic also refers to people of any race who trace their ethnic roots to a country where Spanish is the main language, including Spain. Latino refers to people of any race who trace their roots back to countries from the Caribbean, Mexico, and throughout Central and South America. This year’s theme is: “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.” The anniversary of independence falls on September 15 for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18.

While many were fighting on two fronts, for citizenship and equity, Hispanic Americans took tremendous pride in their devotion to duty and continued in their military service from the American Revolution to Afghanistan. Approximately 350,000 Hispanic Americans are currently serving in the Armed Forces and over 86,000 serve as DoD civilian employees. In the long history of this country, Hispanics have fought bravely for the United States. From the Civil War to the Vietnam War, Hispanics have a reputation of being the first in and the last out. The past and present sacrifices of Hispanic Americans serving our country remain an integral component of our national defense and strength. Here are some Hispanic Americans who have not only helped to shape American culture, but who have also enhanced the DoD.

- The oldest of 12 children, Dr. France Anne Cordova was the youngest person to hold the position of NASA chief scientist. Cordova is the recipient of NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal, it’s the highest honor. Dr. Cordova now serves as the 11th president of Purdue University, and the first Hispanic woman to lead the Indiana campus.

- On May 23, 1943, in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, Private Joseph P. Martinez of Colorado became the first Hispanic-American to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions during World War II. His posthumous award was for the first act of combat heroism on American soil (other than the 15 at Pearl Harbor) since the Indian Campaigns.

- David G. Farragut is perhaps the best-known Hispanic Civil War hero. He served in the Union Navy and later became the first admiral in the U.S. Navy. Congress created the rank and awarded it to him after his August 5, 1864, victory in the Battle of Mobile Bay.

- After the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, SMSgt Ramon Colon-Lopez took the fight to the enemy during four deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from July 2002 to September 2004. Over the course of 60 combat missions, his actions resulted in the apprehension of 30 high-value targets. He received his first Bronze Star with Valor for courage under fire while supporting the Presidential Security Detail for Hamid Karzai. During a direct action mission, his helicopter was crippled by anti-aircraft fire originating from the target area. After the crash landing, Colon-Lopez and two SEALs assaulted a fortified position, killed five combatants, and removed the threat to the remainder of the helicopter assault force. His second Bronze Star with Valor was for heroism displayed during that mission.

We honor our Hispanic community-military and civilian-for their significant contributions towards protecting the United States and embodying the DoD values that unite us all as one team. During this month as we recognize National Hispanic Heritage Month, please use this opportunity to ask yourself and others, “What contributions and efforts do you make to embody the DoD values and unite your team?”