From the NFRW Armed Services Committee
The 2023 theme for Hispanic American Heritage Month is "Latinos: Driving Prosperity, Power, and Progress in America." Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated throughout the latter half of September and the first half of October, began to promote the history, culture, and contributions of Hispanic Americans — specifically, those whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
September 15 is set as the starting date for the celebrations as it is important for many reasons. It is the independence anniversary for Latin American countries El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras; the independence days of Mexico and Chile fall on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Dia de la Raza (Columbus Day) also falls within this month, on October 12.
Many Hispanics were living in what is now the United States long before we purchased their land, or they won their freedom from Mexico. A significant number of Hispanics have served in all the nation's wars. In 1777, the Spanish Governor of Louisiana supported General George Washington in the Revolutionary War. In 1845, Texas joined the Union as the 28th state – many Tejanos fought with Sam Houston for independence from Mexico in 1836. Hispanic Americans fought in WWI and over 300,000 Latinos enlisted in the American military and fought in World War II. Sixty-one service members of Hispanic or Latino heritage have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest medal for valor. Two were sailors, 13 marines, and 46 soldiers.
One of the most well-known Medal of Honor awardees is Master Sergeant (then Staff Sergeant-SSG) Raul Perez "Roy" Benavidez, United States Army, who distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely valorous actions on May 2, 1968, while assigned to Detachment B-56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam.
SSG Benevidez' gallant choice to voluntarily join his comrades who were in critical straits, to expose himself constantly to withering enemy fire, and his refusal to be stopped despite numerous severe wounds, saved the lives of at least eight men. His fearless personal leadership, tenacious devotion to duty, and extremely valorous actions in the face of overwhelming odds were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect the utmost credit on him and the United States Army. [excerpts from Army citation]
Other distinguished armed service members are Dr. Frank Rubio and Navy Rear Admiral Yvette Davis. Dr. Rubio has been chosen as one of 18 astronauts to train for the ARTEMIS moon landing program. Prior to becoming an astronaut, he was a Black Hawk Pilot and then chose to become an Army surgeon after graduating from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Rear Admiral Davis was Commander of Carrier Strike Group 11 and later became Chief of Staff of US Southern Command.
All should honor the immeasurable contributions of Hispanic Americans to our economy, culture, and society. Take part in celebrations in your area.