Hispanic Americans help shape U.S. Armed Forces

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Katrina Gallegos
  • 4th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated to bring awareness to the many diversities that make up the American population. Hispanic Americans have been prominent throughout our country's history. Whether representing people in Congress or serving in the Armed Forces, Hispanic Americans have proven to be valuable assets to our country.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation Sept. 17, 1968, establishing Hispanic Heritage Week. In 1988 Congress decided to extend the observance to a month to better represent this vast number of U.S. citizens.

The Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense reported active duty Hispanic Americans serving on make up 11.2 percent of enlisted and 4.9 percent of the officer force, as of Sept. 30, 2006.

There are a number of facts the person may not know about Hispanic Americans; the first is that Hispanic Americans make up the largest minority in the United States. This is due in part to the fact that Spain was one of the first European countries to settle in America in places like Santa Fe, N.M., two years after the establishment of Jamestown, Va.

Throughout their military career several Hispanic Americans earned high levels of recognition. Forty-three Hispanic men earned the Medal of Honor for their contributions to the U.S. Corporal Joseph H. De Castro was the first Hispanic American Medal of Honor recipient July 3, 1863 for his actions in the Civil War at Gettysburg, Penn.

bestowed upon a Hispanic American was during the Civil War when earned the medal July 3, 1863 for his actions at Gettysburg, Penn.

President George W. Bush post-humously presented the most recent Medal of Honor to Capt. Humberto Roque Versace July 8, 2002 for his services during the Vietnam War. Captain Versace was the first Solider to receive a Medal of Honor for actions performed while in captivity. He was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam and tried to escape four times.

Naval Cmdr. Everett Alvarez was the first American aviator shot down in Vietnam and was held as a POW in Northern Vietnam for eight years. He was presented two Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, two Bronze Stars and a Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in Vietnam. Commander Alvarez remained active in the Armed Forces after his military career serving as a consultant to the White House. He also served in the Peace Corps and wrote two books, "Chained Eagle" and "Code of Conduct."

While these are only a few Hispanic American's military accomplishments their contributions helped define our diverse military force.