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Reflecting on Hispanic Heritage

  • Published
  • By staff Sgt. Ashley Reyes
  • Scott AFB Hispanic Heritage month committee
Hispanic Heritage Month is observed Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. During this time, we recognize the contributions and the significant presence of the American citizens with ancestors from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America and we celebrate their culture. Hispanics have had a great influence on our country through their strong commitment to family, faith, work ethic, and public service.

The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon B. Johnson and in 1988 President Ronald Reagan expanded this observation to a 30-day period ending on Oct. 15. This was enacted into law on Aug. 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402. Hispanic Heritage month begins on Sept. 15 because on that day in 1823 five Latin American countries gained independence from Spain: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua forming the United Provinces of Central America. Mexico later gained independence on Sept. 16 and Chile on Sept. 18.

Generations of Hispanics have enriched every aspect of our national identity, shaping the foundation of the United States through public service. One remarkable individual is Dr. France A. Cordova, a world-renowned astrophysicist. Cordova opened doors for Hispanic women through her work, perseverance, and intelligence. She graduated from Stanford University with a major in English and earned her Ph.D. in physics. Cordova is chief scientist at NASA and the first Latina to head the National Science Foundation.   

Hispanic Americans have also served their time in the United States military, displaying their devotion, heroism, and perseverance in the face of adversity.  Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez's ranks among the most inspirational stories.  As a Texas native, in seventh grade he dropped out of school, but later enlisted in the Army in 1955. Benavidez received the Medal of Honor by performing one of the most remarkable achievements of valor in the Vietnam War.  He saved eight men in a helicopter crash, called in tactical air strikes to suppress enemy fire, and recovered classified material. Benavidez was severely wounded while trying to administer first aid to the wounded and establish a secure perimeter.  This is just a snapshot of his accomplishments during his time in the Army.  He was one of 59 Hispanics to be awarded the Medal of Honor.  

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, let us reflect on how this diverse community has enriched and molded our nation's character. Through their strong commitment to family and service, their work ethic, and their many traditions, Hispanics have helped make our country vibrant and strong.