National Hispanic Heritage Month

  • Published
  • By Capt. Frances Mercado
  • 90th Operations Support Squadron chief of quality assurance
Hispanic Americans have made a significant impact to our armed forces and, as a Puerto Rican, I am incredibly honored to follow in that magnificent heritage.

For centuries, Hispanics have served in many roles in the armed services such as mechanics, nurses and pilots. For instance, my grandfather served his country as a civilian in the Army Corps of Engineers in Puerto Rico. During the Vietnam Conflict, my father volunteered to serve as an aircraft mechanic.

I decided to join the military in 2006 after completing my time in reserve officers' training corps. I was the first female to not only graduate college, but also join the military as an officer. The pressures and legacy that have been laid before me has inspired a sense of duty that I would venture to say is distinct to others who have joined the military. To be a Hispanic female in the military allows me to represent a culture that has been male dominated throughout history.

The military has now become the way out for many Hispanic Americans who see college as unattainable or need more structure in their lives. For example, in my family the GI bill allowed my father to attend flight school.

Now there is a large population of Hispanic Americans that have been involved in major wars dating as far back as the Cold War and most recently in the Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom missions. They have gone through the ranks from privates to generals serving all across the U.S. and abroad showing the loyalty and pride that our heritage is known for.

While we take the time this month to acknowledge the achievements of those courageous men and women who came before us, it is important to remember that their work is not finished. There is still more to accomplish and I am proud to be a part of that change.