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Hispanics positive impact in military is unmistakable

F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo. -- Our military is a reflection of the populace it serves. The military can proudly say Hispanics have had a positive influence since the American Revolution when Spanish colonists supported us in the fight for freedom.

The equality we have now hasn't always been, and it was not easy to get here.

The bitter journey to equality among the different races has been sweetened with stories of Hispanic valor, such as Marine Pfc. Guy Gabaldón who captured more than a thousand Japanese in World War II. The first Hispanic female in the military was a translator from Puerto Rico named Carmen Bozak, a member of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. The first Hispanic POW in Vietnam was Navy Lt. Everett Alvarez. He was in captivity for eight years.

One positive effect of the Hispanic population is a unique culture.

An opportunity to experience a different way of life is unique to the military.

A 20-year naval chief spoke of his first interaction with a Hispanic individual in his first training course many years ago. He said he was a "richer person" for the culture he had learned during the years, including that provided by Hispanic Heritage Month which started as National Hispanic Heritage Week in 1974.

"It seems to me the Hispanic population has grown since I have been in over the past nineteen years," said Master Sgt. Delbert Areford, 90th Force Support Squadron first sergeant. "This has brought greater diversity, which I think is one positive effect."

Applying for citizenship not only enhances the individual but improves our military in retention and quality. Each new individual applying for citizenship in their own "pursuit of happiness" makes for more happy and motivated service members. A Colombian immigrant, Senior Airman David Estrada, formally 90th Civil Engineer Squadron, joined the military at his two-year mark in the United States. His goal to become a citizen, re-enlist and get his security clearance was fueled by his devotion to repay the United States for its generosity to his family and himself by becoming a valuable asset to the armed forces using his language skills as the need arose.

Please take time this month to appreciate what the Hispanic community has done for us all.

Regardless of background, age or Air Force specialty code, each Airman has the responsibility of seeking what is beyond his or her own bubble. The positive Hispanic influence in our military is unmistakable.