Each year, we observe Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 to recognize their many contributions to our nation’s legacy. Sept. 15 was chosen as the starting point for Hispanic Heritage Month because it is the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico declared its independence on Sept. 16, and Chile on Sept. 18.
This year’s theme, chosen by the National Council of Hispanic Employment Managers is: “Embracing, Enriching, and Enabling America.”
The theme invites us to reflect on Hispanic Americans’ not only embracing America and its culture but also bringing their own traditions, culture, language, values, work ethics and ideals to the vitality and meaningful legacy in our Nation’s cultural framework.
Hispanic Americans have long played an essential role in our country’s remarkable culture, heritage, and the building of this great nation. They also have a proud and distinguished history in the U.S. Army and Corps of Engineers.
The number of Hispanic Americans serving their country in the U.S. armed forces continues to grow. In 2010, Hispanics represented the third largest ethnic group among the nation’s 21.8 million veterans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Within the Army Corps of Engineers, we have slightly less than 800 members of Hispanic descent, and around 100 within the Southwestern Division. They serve in a wide variety of positions, across all career fields and pay grades, both civilian and in military uniform.
This month the Army will reflect on the accomplishments of Hispanics Americans like General Richard E. Cavazos the first Hispanic 4-Star General and Brig. Gen. Carmelita Vigil-Schimenti the first Hispanic female to attain rank of general. The Army will also focus on unselfish contributions like those made by Distinguished Service Cross recipient Cpl. Aristides Sosa, 65th Engineer Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, during the Vietnam War. Sosa purposely jumped on top of a grenade during the Tet Offensive to save a comrade.
One great example of the Hispanic American influence in our Army is the 65th Infantry Regiment. Based in Puerto Rico, the unit was the only all-Hispanic unit to serve during the Korean War. Nicknamed the “Borinqueneers” in honor of a native Puerto Rican Indian tribe, the 65th displayed true heart and valor during the Korean War. During a three-year period from 1950 – 1953, the unit participated in nine major campaigns, earning a Presidential Unit Citation, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and two Republic of Korea Unit Citations. Individual unit members earned four Distinguished Service Crosses and 124 Silver Stars.
I ask you to share in this special annual tribute by learning and celebrating the generations of Hispanic and Latino Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.