Members of the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support and Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support gathered to celebrate the rich cultures, traditions and contributions of the Hispanic community during a National Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 25.
The National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, traces its roots back to 1968, when Congress authorized President Lyndon Johnson to proclaim a National Hispanic Week. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan extended the timeframe to a month-long celebration, which honors Hispanic Americans who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, and Spanish-speaking nations in Central and South America and the Caribbean.
This year’s theme was “Hispanic Americans: essential to the blueprint of our nation” and focused on the countless contributions the Hispanic community has made to the United States.
Army Brig. Gen. Gavin Lawrence, DLA Troop Support Commander, said that strong family values, commitment to hard work and selfless service to country are reasons why generations of Hispanics have made an overwhelming impact on our culture and history.
“Approximately 1.2 million Hispanics and Latinos are veterans of the United States Armed Forces,” he said. “And many have made remarkable contributions to our country through their unwavering patriotism and heroism.”
Lawrence highlighted Medal of Honor recipient Army Specialist Four Alfred V. Rascon, a medic in the Vietnam War, who suffered multiple shrapnel and grenade blast injuries while aiding the injured during a battle near the Long Khanh Province.
“It’s important to celebrate and remember Hispanic Americans’ contributions that have been made through selfless service, professionalism and courage to both our military and our country,” he said.
The guest speaker for the event was Manny Monterey, a community activist, filmmaker and author who has dedicated his life to telling the Hispanic American story through various multimedia and community outreach projects.
Monterey created multiple successful documentaries and multimedia products that tell the story of Hispanic Americans and veterans. He has also written books on the topic and produced a PBS Kennedy musical concert celebrating Hispanic music with the biggest Latino names in American music.
Monterey said that within his projects he hopes to capture “a journey filled with sacrifices, hopes and struggles, achievements and celebrations, all in the fight to become a part of this great nation of ours.”
Growing up in the predominately African American neighborhood of Shaw in north-central Washington D.C., Monterey said, seeing the day-to-day struggles of that community was what steered him to examine his own community. There he found a tapestry of stories of Hispanics working to improve their lives, and sacrificing to improve their country.
“From the moment we arrived, we’ve contributed to the growth of this great nation. We drove your buses. We hauled your trash. We wait on you in your favorite restaurants. We also mow your lawns and clean your windows. We do the work. And we do it without complaint, without shame,” he said. “We are also your new breed of contributors and the success stories of America’s higher-educated class. We are the new teachers at elementary and high schools, and universities. We’re realtors, doctors, lawyers with degrees from Harvard, Yale and Princeton ULCA and on and on.”
At the beginning of the program, Raymond Smith, Troop Support Clothing and Textile contract specialist, performed two short guitar selections written by Fernando Sor, a Spanish classical guitarist and composer.
The program was sponsored by the Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committees of DLA Troop Support and NAVSUP-WSS