2021 Hispanic Heritage Month

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Staff Sgt. Joseph Acevedo

125th Medical Detachment, Florida Air National Guard

Acevedo has served 11 years, starting in the Florida Army National Guard. "As a Hispanic member of the Air National Guard, I really appreciate" this month's observance of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Senior Airman Jessica Darling Aguero

125th Operations Group, Florida Air National Guard

Aguero, a Colombia native grateful for the stability, safety and opportunites in the United States, joined the Guard in 2015 to give back. She considers this month an "opportunity as a Colombian immigrant to showcase as an ambassador my culture, values and its contributions" and highlight "the diverse perspectives and influences of the Hispanic population."

Staff Sgt. Johana Aguilar

130th Airlift Wing Maintenance Group, West Virginia Air National Guard

Aguilar, a Panama native, has served five years in the Air National Guard after seven years in the Army. This observance "means a lot to me because 20 years ago I didn’t feel this way. I have changed the perspective I have of the U.S. I now feel part of this country for which I only wish the best."

Spc. Steven Alvarez

356th Quartermaster Company, Florida Army National Guard

Alvarez says attending the National Training Center is a highlight of his two years of service in the Guard so far. "As an immigrant to this nation, I feel acknowledged for the observance of Hispanic Heritage. We are the most diverse country."

Sgt. 1st Class Rosalba Amezcua

72nd Civil Support Team, Nebraska National Guard

Amezcua, a combat medic, joined the Guard in 2004. "Our Army is the best because we embrace diversity and we allow everyone’s ideas to be part of accomplishing our mission."

Airman Armando Barrios

148th Fighter Wing, Minnesota National Guard

Barrios joined the Guard three years ago, encouraged by his basketball coach in International Falls. "I enjoy Hispanic Heritage Month and being able to teach my culture and traditions to my younger siblings and friends – as well as the language and food," he said.

Sgt. Jesenia D. Blas

356th Quartermaster Company, Florida Army National Guard

Blas has served 22 years and relishes the friendships she has made in the military. "As the first in my family to graduate high school, enlist in the military and graduate college, I feel that I have made my ancestors and family's sacrifices worth it! They didn't go without in vain. Their struggles and sacrifices made it possible for me to accomplish all the goals I've set."

1st Sgt. Ernest Botello Jr.

F Company 3rd 238th Aviation Regiment (Air Traffic Control) Oklahoma Army National Guard

Botello is a 15-year veteran of the Guard, a CH-47 flight engineer, and a first generation Mexican American. "This observance to me shows that we as Hispanics are not only proud of our service to our nation, but of our culture and heritage. It is a great feeling being able to share this with others."

Tech Sgt. Manuel Castillo

125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard

Castillo joined the Guard in 2008 and considers his deployment to Afghanistan the highlight of his service. "This month is about recognizing the amazing contributions made by our Hispanic and Latino communities throughout our history. These trailblazers in their own right helped pave the way for so many opportunities that we are fortunate to enjoy."

Spc. Jairo Chavez

356th Quartermaster Company, Florida Army National Guard

Chavez, a Guardsman since 2018, came to the United States from Venezuela five years ago with "no English, two suitcases and a lot of dreams." He says this month is an opportunity "to show who we are, our beliefs, and our culture to the people, so we can gather together and learn from each other. We came from so many different parts with so many backgrounds, but in the end, we all want to celebrate life and be an asset to the community."

Staff Sgt. Omar Cortes Novoa

125th Maintenance Support Group, Florida Air National Guard

Cortes Novoa, an IT network specialist, joined the military in 2016 and loves the camaraderie and sense of purpose. "Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is a way to honor all the cultural richness and diversity. Also, it allows us to highlight and showcase our Hispanic culture."

Staff Sgt. Cristina Cruz

Detachment 1, 114th Aviation, Virgin Islands Army National Guard

Cruz, a petroleum supply specialist, has served nine years. "This observance means to me that there are great Soldiers that make up the U.S. military."

Spc. Joshua A. Cuentas

356th Quartermaster Company, Florida Army National Guard

Cuentas, an automated logistics specialist, joined the Guard in 2017 to kick-start his life after high school. He says Hispanic Heritage Month "means that the military cares about the Hispanic community and wants to hear our opinions."

Staff Sgt. Alina R. Decker

125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard

"Meeting new people, seeing new places and learning new things," is Decker's favorite part of serving the past nine years. "Coming from a blended background myself, I believe it is important to keep family history and practices alive. ... Something I am very passionate about is accepting everyone for who they are and looking at the positive qualities in others."

Sgt. Lesley A. Diaz

356th Quartermaster Company, Florida Army National Guard

Diaz, a wheeled vehicle mechanic who joined the Guard in 2009, says his favorite part of serving is helping people during hurricane relief missions. "This observance is important because it is a good way to remember how diverse our military is. Even though we serve our country united as one, it is nice to celebrate our heritage and different cultures."

Senior Master Sgt. Martha Elle Dunning

101 Air Operations Group/601 Air Operations Center, Florida Air National Guard

Dunning, a Colombia native, has served more than 20 years. This observance "represents the diversity and inclusion that this country has a history of honoring. All of it may not be perfect or read as we’d like it to, but if we stop and reflect at the whole of the world, the history of diversity and inclusivity has progressed because of the efforts this country has made, is making and will continue to make. We truly lead the way; I am a result and but a small depiction of that."

Spc. Adielis Garcia

356th Quartermaster Company, Florida Army National Guard

Garcia joined the Guard in 2018 and has helped test people for COVID-19. During Hispanic Heritage Month, "we try and get together every Sunday and celebrate that we are all together. We bring a special plate representing Cuba. Singing our most famous salsa songs."

Sgt. Tlali Garcia

67th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Nebraska National Guard

Garcia joined the Guard in 2017 and is deployed to Africa. She calls this observance "a celebration of who I am. As a first generation American, I treasure the culture and values inherited from my parents and take pride on being able to pass them on to my children so that they never forget their heritage."

Master Sgt. Hector Gonzalez-Bauza

125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard

Gonzalez-Bauza joined the Guard in Puerto Rico 22 years ago and has two sons and a daughter who have served in the military. This observance "means the recognition of the Hispanic people, their contribution to history, culture, social and societal influence of Hispanic and LatinX people within the U.S. and throughout the world."

Senior Airman Maribella Gonzalez Ortiz

125th Medical Group, Florida Air National Guard

Gonzalez Ortiz joined the military three years ago to improve her English and serve her country. She likes the observance this month for "recognizing the contribution of all military Hispanic members and learning about them and diversity."

Senior Master Sgt. Jose Daniel Hernandez

123 Air Control Squadron, Ohio Air National Guard

Hernandez, a 29-year veteran of the Army and Air Guard, is the godson of Roberto Clemente, the first Hispanic baseball player inducted into the Hall of Fame. He says Hispanic Heritage Month "reminds me and I hope many others that we are a melting pot, a plethora of cultures, races and heritages all working together toward achieving one goal, to preserve the security of our nation, our freedom and our way of life."

Staff Sgt. Kevin Iguera

118th Wing, Tennessee Air National Guard

Iguera, a digital network analyst, joined the Guard in 2013. "This observance to me means that no matter how far you've come in life, always look back and appreciate where you came from and the people that supported you along the way. I am a first generation immigrant and I owe everything to my parents' sacrifice for giving me a better life than they had."

Sgt. Luis E. Lavastida

356TH Quartermaster Company, Florida Army National Guard

Lavastida joined the Guard 12 years ago and says the highlight of his service is the opportunity to be part of the National Guard Counterdrug Program. This month " is a time we get to reflect on the contributions of the Hispanic culture to this great nation. It marks a great achievement for those who came seeking a better life, but at the same time brought a little of their nations to be part of one big vision of prosperity and unity for a better tomorrow."

Capt. Leo Martinez

123rd Air Control Squadron, Blue Ash Air National Guard Station, Ohio Air National Guard

Martinez joined the Air Guard in 2002, motivated by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "There is so much Hispanic history just in our military that I am always thankful for the efforts to highlight Hispanics who have served as many of these individuals, units, and stories sometimes are overlooked until HHM displays their achievements. That representation gives Hispanics like myself a lot of pride in our service to this great nation, and we want those who come next to understand they have a connection and history in our armed forces and the United States."

Staff Sgt. Carlos Melendez

125th Maintenance Squadron, Florida Air National Guard

Melendez, who has a military occupational specialty in aircraft fuel systems, says the highlight of his almost 10 years of service was being deployed with his unit. Asked about the signficance of Hispanic Heritage Month, he said: "I am honored and proud of being Latino."

Tech Sgt. Claudia Patricia Ortiz

125th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Florida Air National Guard

Ortiz joined the Air Force in 2002 and the Air National Guard in 2006. A highlight of her service was returning to Lackland Air Force Base to see her nephew graduate Basic Military Training in 2018. Hispanic Heritage Month "really reminded me of the importance of never forgetting where I came from and all the accomplishments I have conquered serving in the United States Air Force. As a minority, my goal has always been to give back and contribute in any way possible to this country."

2nd Lt. Alexander Perales

125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard

Perales joined the Guard 10 years ago and serves in the Maintenance Squadron. "To me, this observance means that we are a diverse force. We have people in our force from different nationalities and cultures that allows us to see things from different perspectives and have something positive to bring to the fight/mission."

Staff Sgt. Adriana Russell

118th Wing, Tennessee Air National Guard

Russell has served eight years active duty and five years in the Guard. "My parents are from Nicaragua, and what they know of the military is just war, that I will be going to the front lines immediately. For me to join has been such a change for everyone, they see that I am taken care of along with my family."

Senior Airman Jose Saavedra Pinto

125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard

Saavedra, an aircraft electrician, says his favorite part of serving is being able to work on F15 jets and keep them flying. He applauds Hispanic Heritage Month "because it recognizes the presence, contributions and influence of the Hispanic Americans in our unit."

Sgt. Jesus G. Sanchez

Medical Readiness Detachment, Oklahoma National Guard

Sanchez joined the Guard in 2003, the first in his family to serve. "I am proud of where I am from and I am happy to represent that every day in this uniform. Above all, I am blessed to have the chance to serve in uniform and make my parents and family proud."

Tech. Sgt. Luis Sanchez

125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard

Sanchez has served in the Guard for more than 12 years. He says this observance is "a time where we come together and unite as Latinos and celebrate the history and contributions that we have made to our nation."

Staff Sgt. Carlos Suarez

356th Quartermaster Company, Florida Army National Guard

Suarez, a member of the Guard since 2013, says there is no better feeling than helping someone in a time of need. "It is a great honor to have been selected for Hispanic Heritage Month knowing that it will make my parents cheerful in hearing this. For all the sacrifices they had to make to come over from Cuba to the best country, United States of America, to make a better life for themselves."

Staff Sgt. Tyneshia Uscanga

601st Air Operations Center, Florida Air National Guard

Uscanga says she joined the Guard in 2016 "to learn a cool trade, and I ended up really liking my job." She says "it’s amazing to celebrate and recognize the presence/influence of Hispanic culture in our history and present day workforce in the United States."

Warrant Officer Candidate Michel Jesus Varona

52nd Civil Support Team (WMD), Ohio National Guard

Varona, an information technology specialist, joined the Guard in 2007. "This observance gives me and many others that serve a chance to tell our stories. It also provides the rest of the National Guard an opportunity to learn and be exposed to someone else's experience that is not native-born USA."