2020 National Hispanic Heritage Month

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National Hispanic Heritage Month

Staff Sgt. Estenia Aquino

HHC 369th Sustainment Brigade, New York National Guard

Aquino says this observance "brings a different type of pride. I love the country I serve but I also love the country (Dominican Republic) my family comes from. In this month, I am able to honor both with my fellow Hispanic comrades, acknowledge how diverse the Army we serve in is and how regardless of our backgrounds we are here together."

Senior Airman Claudia Barreiro

106th Force Support Squadron, New York National Guard

Barreiro moved from Ecuador to the U.S. when she was 3 years old. This month, she says, "I get to celebrate both parts of my life, as a proud Hispanic woman and as an American. I am so grateful of all the opportunities this country has given me, but I also value where I came from."

Sgt. 1st Class Alexa Elena Becerra

133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Kentucky National Guard

Becerra says this month's observance "is special to me because it celebrates a culture that is often an afterthought only associated with a type of food or negative current events. This month gives us the opportunity to highlight the pivotal role that Latinos have had throughout the history of the U.S. military and the rich values and experiences we share."

2nd Lt. Carmen Breese

43rd Military Police Brigade, Rhode Island National Guard

Breese joined the Guard in 2016 after graduating from college. "I think it's cool to highlight the different cultures that make up not only the Rhode Island National Guard but the military in general. I really like how it highlights people's cultures, backgrounds and differences."

Sgt. Harringson Castrillon

145th Support Maintenance Company, New York National Guard

Harringson served in the Navy and, since 2013, the Guard, and is a police officer in his civilian job. "It has been a great honor to serve and fulfill my dreams and always be able to search for new goals on my military career as well as my personal life, also setting an example to my siblings and be able to make my family proud."

Staff Sgt. Dante Chavez

190th Brigade Signal Company, Utah National Guard

Chavez joined the Guard in 2012 and says this observance "means learning more about my heritage and the culture of where my parents are from. Also, it means learning some history about Central American countries."

Tech. Sgt. Clara Colon

106th Force Support Squadron, New York National Guard

Colon joined the Guard just shy of her 40th birthday. She says Hispanic Heritage Month gives young Airmen "a chance to know their history and how Hispanics are a part of it."

Master Sgt. Andrew Cruz

106th Rescue Wing, New York National Guard

Cruz is Puerto Rican and Irish. He joined the Guard in 2010 and is also a New York City firefighter. "This observance is a reminder that we should be proud of our heritage and our backgrounds. It gives us a moment to reflect on our family, where our families came from, and the journey that led us to where we are today."

Cpl. Nichole Cuevas

HHC 369th Sustainment Brigade, New York National Guard

Cuevas is the first in her Dominican family to graduate from college and join the military. "To me, it is amazing that the Latinos in the military are recognized, and it is important that every culture receives recognition. This will show future Soldiers the diversity in the National Guard and will motivate them to join."

Master Sgt. Ricardo Diaz

165th Medical Group, Georgia National Guard

Diaz joined the Air Force in 2000 and the Air National Guard in 2006. "I feel it's important for Americans to learn about the different ethnic cultures. We're all different, and it's a great thing."

Staff Sgt. Nathaly Eumana Candia

1569th Medium Truck Company, New York National Guard

Eumana says as a Puerto Rican, this month "signifies the respect the Armed Forces have towards the diverse cultures and backgrounds in its formations. Hispanics have served since the Civil War with honor, while still facing discrimination."

Staff Sgt. Alejandro Fajardo

141st Military Intelligence Battalion, Utah National Guard

Fajardo says highlights of his 20-year military career include serving in Afghanistan and responding to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. "Growing up in Honduras, I learned about patriotism every year during September, which is the month where most Latin American countries celebrate their independence."

Staff Sgt. Julio A. Fernandez

258th Field Artillery Regiment, New York National Guard

Fernandez followed his father and grandfather into service in 2013. "I do not only represent the Army and my nation but the Latin community. And if through my service and my small actions in a sea of heroic ones I inspire other Latinos into service, I feel that I have made the right choice in enlisting."

Master Sgt. Maria Fernandez

Regional Training Institute, Utah National Guard

Fernandez enlisted in the Guard at 17. "It says a lot about those I serve with when they've taken the time to understand me and my culture because they want to know and not because it lands on a specific month."

Staff Sgt. Luis Figueroa Gimenez

156th Civil Engineer Squadron, Puerto Rico National Guard

Gimenez joined the Guard in 2016. This month "means a lot to me because it shows the great Airmen the Air Force has. It also may serve as a goal to others to give that extra mile to become the best Airmen they can be."

Staff Sgt. Jose Flores

Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Illinois National Guard

Flores a first-generation Mexican American, has served for 10 years. "Hispanics are growing with our force and are proving to be key in completing Army missions. We are also inspiring Hispanics to never settle for less than success."

2nd Lt. Tevin Flores

Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Nevada National Guard

Flores joined the Guard 12 years ago and says Hispanic Heritage Month is "about unity and being a part of the different cultures and enjoying it. Accepting everyone for who they are."

Lt. Col. Claudio Garcia-Castro

237th Support Battalion, Ohio National Guard

Garcia-Castro says "the Hispanic story is a story as old as this country: Come to America, work hard, succeed and give back, all the while allowing your diversity to leave an imprint on the picture of America."

Airman 1st Class Derek Garcia

165th Mission Support Group, Georgia National Guard

Garcia has served almost two years in the Guard. "I may not be the most experienced when it comes to embracing my own Hispanic side of my life, but I know for a fact that I'm determined to learn more about my people and not only learn Spanish, but French, German, Japanese and Italian as well."

Command Sgt. Maj. Edmundo I. Garcia

142nd Military Intelligence Battalion, Utah National Guard

Garcia, a first-generation Mexican American, has served 25 years. "This observance serves as a reminder that we are a very diverse country. This observance is about bringing awareness to our community and showing our everyday contributions. It is a month to reflect on and embrace everything that Hispanics have achieved and have yet to achieve. It's empowering."

Maj. Jimmy Gracia

106th Civil Engineer Squadron, New York National Guard

Gracia, of Colombian heritage, says he is "a part of the 6% of Hispanic officers across the Total Force, and I am no different from any other fellow officer doing our best to excel at our mission. It is a beautiful thing when we can share our heritage with each other developing a semblance of kinship, and trust each other's warfighting capabilities."

Sgt. Jose Ernesto Garita

Utah National Guard

Garita in 2015 became the first in his family to join the military. "This observation means a lot to me. It gives me an opportunity to honor my heritage while serving in the Utah National Guard."

Spc. Daniel Gerbig

1-158th Infantry Battalion “Bushmasters,” Arizona Army National Guard

Gerbig has served at food banks and helped deliver COVID-19 test kits and personal protective equipment during this pandemic. Hispanic Heritage Month, he says, is "the recognition of the history and culture of my people - what we've done, the struggles we've been through and all of our accomplishments."

1st Sgt. James Gonzales

116th Brigade Engineer Battalion, Idaho National Guard

Gonzales has served for 32 years. He says this observance "means a great deal to me because I want to encourage all young Latino kids that they, too, can be successful in the military and show this great nation that Hispanics are great Americans, too."

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Gonzalez

106th Rescue Wing, New York National Guard

Gonzalez joined the Guard in 2014 and says "meeting others that serve is the best part of serving. Everyone has a different story in their lives and, although the stories are different from yours, you can learn a lot about someone."

Sgt. Luis Gonzalez

C-Battery, 2nd Battalion, 222nd Field Artillery, Utah National Guard

Gonzalez joined the Guard in 2010 and says Hispanic Heritage Month "means a lot. I spend most of the time trying to learn new things about my heritage and where I came from. I try and teach my children to be proud of the heritage."

Sgt. Yaileny Gonzalez

145th Sustainment Maintenance Company, New York National Guard

Gonzalez, from the Dominican Republic, says joining the National Guard in 2016 helped her "get on the right track." This Hispanic Heritage observance "is a reflection of who I am and where I've come from. Reflection is one of the motivators I use to be better in every aspect."

Staff Sgt. Emmanuel Gutierrez

188th Wing, Ebbing Air National Guard Base, Arkansas

Gutierrez, who joined the Air Force in 2012 and the Guard in 2017, says his "Hispanic heritage is my motivation when I get tired. I can look back and see how far we've come." His parents came to the U.S. from Mexico.

1st Lt. Ismael Gutierrez

169th Medical Group, South Carolina National Guard

Gutierrez, the proud son of first-generation immigrants from El Salvador, says this observance “is special because it shares the history of Hispanics and the contributions given by many in the founding of the United States.”

2nd Lt. Gabriel Hernandez

2nd Battalion, 122nd Field Artillery Regiment, Illinois National Guard

Hernandez is in his second stint in the National Guard. "Now, as a newly commissioned officer, I will be in a position where I can significantly impact the Soldiers and NCOs within my unit; a position where I can mentor and develop Soldiers."

Sgt. Jake Hernandez

Utah Training Center, Utah National Guard

Hernandez has served in the Guard more than six years. "It's amazing the military is always recognizing all the different ethnicities and walks of life people come from that make the military what it is. So it means a lot."

Spc. Sandro Herrera Pallares

150th Maintenance, Nevada National Guard

Herrera Pallares says he joined the Guard a year ago to "be part of something great." Asked about this month's observance, the wheeled vehicle mechanic said: "I feel really humble to be allowed to serve in the U.S. Army and be treated with dignity and respect."

Staff Sgt. Jocelyn Maldonado

106th Force Support Squadron, New York National Guard

Maldonado joined the Guard five years ago. "This observance shows me I'm part of the small percentage of Hispanic Airmen who belong to my base. … Everyone has their own story and it's not until we listen to everyone else that we notice the similarities you may have with other Airmen."

Spc. Andrew Martinez

153rd BSB Delta Company, Arizona National Guard

Martinez says his favorite time during his seven years in the military was serving the country in Afghanistan. During Hispanic Heritage Month, "we can all get a better sense for cultural appreciation and enjoy Modelo time!"

Spc. Nathaniel Mariano Martinez

213th Forward Support Company, Utah National Guard

Martinez a Guard member since 2013, is "proud of my family's heritage on all sides, and I hope that everyone can take the opportunity to discover the heritage of their own families and learn from them."

Spc. Richard Martinez

130th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, North Carolina National Guard

Martinez said his grandfather joined the Air Force to finalize his citizenship. "My family has proven that anyone can work hard to achieve their goals, no matter where you come from or where you live. If you want something to change in your life, you can make it happen!"

Airman 1st Class Asha McMullen

165th Mission Support Group, Georgia National Guard

McMullen continued a family military legacy when she joined the Guard in 2019. "I've started to realize that I can follow in my family's footsteps but I don't have to drown in their shadows. I can make my own success, and I've made my family proud."

Staff Sgt. Mili Moore

2123rd Transportation Company, Kentucky National Guard

Moore joined the Guard in 2009 to serve as a role model to her sister and young girls. She says this observance "shows that the leaders of the National Guard do care about their Soldiers and acknowledge all the backgrounds and cultures that are part of this great organization."

Senior Master Sgt. David Morales

Joint Forces Headquarters, Puerto Rico Air National Guard

Morales has been in the Guard 18 years. "I am proud and honored to serve with other Hispanic Airmen that contribute new ideas and experiences that will definitely make us stronger and better, in the world's best AIR FORCE!!!!"

Staff Sgt. Krystin Morales

106th Maintenance Squadron, New York National Guard

Morales says "this observance, like many others, celebrates our individuality and helps us share our cultures with one another, further bringing us together by showing us how to better understand each other."

Senior Airman Perla Moran

Maintenance Group, New York National Guard

Moran joined the Guard in 2017. "This observance brings pride and joy to me, as I do embrace my Hispanic heritage very close to my heart."

Staff Sgt. Kori Moravec-Flores

300th Military Intelligence Brigade, Utah National Guard

Moravec-Flores joined in 2012 and is a cryptologic linguist. "I was raised in a household where we spoke authentic Spanglish, we ate Peruvian food as a lifestyle, we honored our elderly, and having a good education was fundamental to a strong character. The diverse cultures I adopted over my lifetime defined the principles and values I live today."

Staff Sgt. Adriel Nemec

147th Regional Training Institute, Ohio National Guard

Nemec grew up in developing South American countries. "I believe what makes the U.S. military so great is the diversity. ... The heritage month is a way to honor those Hispanic service members who paved the way for us to walk down the road to victory and success."

Senior Airman Natalie T. Nieves-Gonzalez

175th Force Support Squadron, Maryland National Guard

Nieves-Gonzalez came from Puerto Rico in 2006 and joined the Guard in 2015. "I am proud to be a Hispanic woman serving this country and state. I am proud that little girls that may not even speak English now can look up to me and say, ‘If she did it, I can too.'"

Master Sgt. Josue I. Pabon

165th Airlift Wing/Maintenance Squadron, Georgia National Guard

Pabon followed his parents into the military 25 years ago. "I am proud to be a Hispanic American (Puerto Rican) serving our nation, yet humbled to be recognized for it."

Senior Airman Juan Paz

145th Airlift Wing, North Carolina National Guard

Paz joined the Guard two years ago. "This observance reminds me that it's important to remember your heritage and never forget it. It's a part of who you are and you have the opportunity to share it with others and let them learn about your culture, family and upbringing."

Spc. Angel Pena

2nd Battalion, 222 nd Field Artillery, Utah National Guard

Pena has served almost four years. This month's observance "shows the Army's effort in recognizing service members that come from different backgrounds. People often ask if we experience discrimination for being Hispanic in the military. However, I have experienced nothing but acceptance."

Tech. Sgt. Benny Pena

165th Airlift Wing, Georgia National Guard

Pena has served in the Guard since 2013. Hispanic Heritage Month "means so much recognizing not just me but all Hispanic Americans' achievements, contributions, and influence they have had that helped shape the United States."

Airman Daisy Perez

210 Engineering Installations Squadron, Minnesota National Guard

Perez joined the Guard in 2018. "What this observance means to me is doing the right thing, putting in hard work, service before self to be able to serve successfully."

Tech. Sgt. Oscar Perez Reyes

106th Security Forces Squadron, New York National Guard

Reyes became the first in his family to join the military in 2011. Hispanic Heritage Month "is a time to reflect on the titans of the Latin community that have paved their way through history, a time for reflection of all our Hispanic origins and cultures as one united community where we share nothing but pride in our roots and where we came from."

Cpl. Troy Phillip Perez

69th Infantry Regiment, New York National Guard

Perez is proud of his Puerto Rican heritage. This observance "means to me that we come from a minority group which is special, but personally we are one, we are family, and we have each other's back no matter what heritage."

Sgt. 1st Class Ricardo Pinon

E Company, 141st Military Intelligence Battalion, Utah National Guard

Pinon joined the Guard in 2004 because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This month "highlights the sacrifices that many Hispanic people have made to get to where they are currently. In these troubled times, I think highlighting other races and diversities is critical in building cohesion."

Staff Sgt. Lyman Dee Platt

141st Military Intelligence Battalion, Utah National Guard

Platt in his 15th year in the Guard, thinks of his ties to Peru during Hispanic Heritage Month. "I grew up with a mother and grandmother from Lima, Peru. My heritage in that regard has always driven me to learn Spanish further and be more cognizant of situations in Peru and family that continues to be there."

Sgt. Oliver Prado

Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Illinois National Guard

Prado joined the Guard in 2012. "This observance means a lot to me because it is a time for Hispanics to show what they have been contributing to the U.S. This also shows Hispanic culture and influence to American lives."

Chief Warrant Officer 3 José Carlos Ramirez

254th Regional Training Institute, New Jersey National Guard

Ramirez joined the military 29 years ago and says he is "proud to be a Hispanic Soldier who has been able to accomplish so much because of others before me who have paved the way with hard work, dedication and determination. I want young Soldiers to follow my lead and to be able to accomplish much more than I ever will."

Spc. Antonio Reynolds

A Battery 2/222 FA, Utah National Guard

Reynolds followed his grandfather into military service in 2018. "I love representing who I am as a person but also to represent the United States Army Soldier. It has given me a drive within myself that I did not know existed."

Sgt. 1st Class Denier Y. Rivera

Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Nebraska Army National Guard

Rivera, from Colombia, became a U.S. citizen while deployed to Iraq. This month's observance, he said, reminds "us that in the U.S. military, we have the ability to serve while also maintaining our unique cultures, customs, and ways of life."

Capt. Emire Rodriguez Bonet

156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico National Guard

Bonet has served almost 10 years. "I am proud to celebrate and represent my culture not only this month but always. And as the song of the rock band Fiel a la Vega says: "Yo sería borincano, aunque naciera en la luna." (I would be "Puerto Rican/Borincano" even if I was born on the moon.)

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Rodriguez

Air National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, New Jersey

Rodriguez, from Colombia, joined the Guard in 2007, inspired by the Guard's response to Hurricane Katrina. "To me this observance means my family past and future is Hispanic heritage."

Spc. Javier Roman

1st Battalion, 134th Field Artillery Regiment, Ohio National Guard

Roman, a member of the Guard since 2014, says Hispanic Heritage Month demonstrates that "incorporating people of all ethnicities and cultures is important especially when it involves our communities."

Tech. Sgt. Rafael D. Rosa

156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico National Guard

Rosa, a Guard member since 2009, says this observance "means a lot to me because we are highlighting the diversity within the organization. It's also a great opportunity to recognize the influence and impact the Hispanic culture and Hispanic individuals have had throughout history, even within the U.S. military."

Capt. Miguel Rosario

175th Wing, 175th Cyber Operations Group, 276th Cyber Operations Squadron, Maryland National Guard

Rosario has served in the military for 23 years and has a family legacy of service dating to his great grandfather in Puerto Rico in the World War I era. "It brings me great pride as a Hispanic American to have served my country during times of war and peace. It is also a great sense of pride for my mother, who is a naturalized citizen from Colombia."

Capt. Joshua “Mosey” Rosecrans

157 Fighter Squadron “Swamp Fox,” South Carolina Air National Guard

Rosecrans is an F-16 fighter pilot who grew up in El Paso, Texas, on the Mexican border. "I hope that people always know that no matter where you come from or what your ethnicity is, that the power is within you to become anything you so desire."

Staff Sgt. Noel Ruiz

Security Forces Squadron, New York National Guard

Ruiz joined the Guard partly to be an example to those from the inner city. "I take pride in embracing who I am, where I came from and what my nationality has done for me and those that come after me."

Airman 1st Class Josafen Sanchez

210th Engineering Installation Squadron, Minnesota National Guard

Sanchez joined the Guard in April and welcomes Hispanic Heritage Month. "As a daughter of the Latin community, it is very important to me that I am a role model for others. Being a part of the National Guard helps me exponentially to achieve that goal."

Master Sgt. Jose Sanchez Perez

156th Civil Engineer Squadron, Puerto Rico National Guard

Perez, serving in his 20th year, has roots in the Dominican Republic. "We Latinos today continue to advance communities across the country as small business owners, veterans, teachers, and public servants, among many other professions. Hispanic Heritage Month allows us to recognize our achievements and contributions to our national story."

Master Sgt. Naomi Sanders

155th Force Support Squadron, Nebraska Air National Guard

Sanders has served since 2009. "Coming to the states from Honduras and not speaking nor understanding any English to being a part of the world's greatest Air Force has been a truly humbling experience. I'm very proud of my Latino roots and culture. I know that upbringing has contributed to my success in the Air Force today."

Staff Sgt. Joshua Santiago

130th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, North Carolina National Guard

Santiago says this observance "is a great time to celebrate ALL Latinos. Growing up in a big family in the Bronx, half Puerto Rican and half Dominican, I know firsthand the Hispanic community is a community of very proud people, rich in culture and rich in heritage."

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Yetzabel Sierra Medina

Recruiting and Retention Battalion, New Jersey National Guard

Medina has served for 17 years. "This observance means the world to me and my family. Being able to celebrate our roots, customs, and traditions and share it with this amazing country to me is the American dream."

Sgt. 1st Class Valentin F Soto

Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Utah National Guard

Soto says his parents immigrated from Mexico. "Recognizing Hispanic contributions by service members that have come and gone is a great reminder of the diversification and inclusion efforts."

Pfc. Alicia Toledo-Robles

116th Brigade Engineer Battalion, Idaho National Guard

Toledo-Robles is a second-generation Mexican American who joined the Guard in 2018. "This observance is an important opportunity not only for myself but for other people to share a part of themselves, and for the possibility to inspire others to join and continue to support minority voices in the military."

Brig. Gen. Michael A. Valle

Florida Air National Guard

Valle followed his grandfather and 10 uncles into military service 34 years ago and is grateful for the thousands of Hispanic men and women who preceded him. This month, he thinks of "the nine Puerto Rican Medal of Honor winners that were born on the same island I was, and how proud I am of their service."

Staff Sgt. Lissette Venable

Illinois National Guard

Venable, an 18-year veteran of the Guard, said Hispanic Heritage Month "means a lot to me. My family is obviously proud of our (Mexican) heritage but also grateful to live in this great country. The military is the most diverse group of people in the world. I love learning about other cultures as well as sharing my own."

Spc. Leidy Villegas Lorenzo

14th Financial Management Support Unit, New York National Guard

Villegas moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic five years ago and joined the Guard in 2019. Hispanic Heritage Month is meaningful to her because of "my experiences: strength, perseverance and personal courage and, above all else, resilience."

Master Sgt. John Winn

151st Air Refueling Wing, Utah National Guard

Winn a first-generation Mexican American, appreciates this month's observance. "Taking a moment to recognize that Hispanic heritage isn't one thing, that it can mean different things to different people, is important to me. It's also important to take a moment and recognize the diversity that the U.S. military has, that we all come from different walks of life."

Col. Joshua L. Wright

180th Fighter Wing, Toledo, Ohio

Wright a flight surgeon and medical group commander, says this month's observance is about "showing people that you can accomplish what you set out to do despite being a minority. In this time of heightened racial tensions, persistence and a positive attitude can sway people's attitudes and break down stereotypes."