Every year between 15 Sept. - 15 Oct. the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, and the Department of Defense at large, celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month. The occasion is a time to recognize and commend the contributions of Hispanic service members to the U.S. military.
“Hispanics have a long history of [military] service,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Eric Anduze, CJTF-HOA deputy commander, who hails from Puerto Rico. “We’re proud of our heritage and take great honor in serving.”
The theme of this year’s observance is “Todos Somos, Somos Uno: We Are All, We Are One.” The Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute says this represents the diversity within the Hispanic community and the strength that comes from unity. Inclusivity enables the DOD to harness the full potential and talent of diverse communities.
National Hispanic Heritage Month was established in 1968, at the time only being one week. In 1988, it was expanded to cover a month. September 15th was chosen because it commemorates the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. It also takes into account September 16th and 18th, the independence days of Mexico and Chile, respectively.
Hispanic members have served in every U.S. war, dating back to the Revolutionary War. To date, 61 service members of Hispanic or Latino heritage have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest medal for valor.
Seaman Philip Bazaar was the first Hispanic to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service to the Navy during the Civil War. Seaman Bazaar was aboard the USS Santiago de Cuba, which assaulted a Confederate stronghold.
Over the past 50 years, female Hispanic service members have been rising through the ranks.
Olga E. Custodio became the first commissioned Latina U.S. military pilot in 1980. She served in the Air Force for 24 years and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2003. She also became the first Latina commercial airline captain.
Army Lieutenant Colonel Marisol Chalas is the first Latina Black Hawk helicopter pilot. She served as the Operations Officer for the 158th Aviation Regiment in Conroe, Texas. She currently works as a garrison commander for the U.S. Army Parks Reserve Forces Training Area.
Today, Hispanic members still play an important role in the force. In 2021, 17% of the active-duty force was reported to be of Hispanic origin.
“I think the contributions of Hispanic service members are an important part of our history as a military,” said U.S. Army Spc. Diana Acosta Lomeli, CJTF-HOA protocol staff. “I think it’s really cool that we’ve set aside time to reflect on the contributions of the Hispanic Community.”
See the following resources for more information about the contributions of Hispanic service members: https://www.defenseculture.mil/Portals/90/Documents/Research/Publications/AA_2021_NHHM-20210922.pdf https://www.defenseculture.mil/Portals/90/Documents/Research/Publications/AA_2021_NHHM-20210922.pdf https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MP5sA2nCUvs