MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- Sept. 15 marked the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. The Month-long observation is recognized nationwide from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
Hispanic Heritage Month was established in 1968 by President Lyndon B. Johnson and originally lasted one week, but was expanded to a month by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. During this time period, Americans celebrate the history, culture, and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain and Latin America.
“As a member of the military, this month is very important to me,” said Lance Cpl. Joseph Arroyo, a New Jersey native of Puerto Rican Decent. “This month allows us to reflect on the achievements of Latin Americans and our culture as a whole. To me personally, it puts into perspective the sacrifices of the men and women who came before
and what they sacrificed.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic and Latin community is the largest and fastest growing minority group in the United States. The term Hispanic refers to Puerto Rico, America or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race. Hispanic and Latinos make up almost 17 percent of the total U.S. population and 17 percent of the military as well.
“My parents are immigrants and some of the biggest patriots I know,” said Sgt. Jerry Rivera, a drill instructor aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be in the position I am today. Watching them sacrifice so much for me growing up made me want to give back in any way I could.”
The anniversary of independence for seven Latin American countries falls within the time period. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua all celebrate their independence day on Sept. 15. Mexico and Chile also celebrates their independence during the month of observation.
“I grew up in a very diverse neighborhood in New Jersey,” Arroyo said. “All those different culture interacting and existing together reminds me a lot of the Marine Corps and how that helps us. Our differences make us stronger, not only as individuals but as a whole.”
According to Marine Administrative Message 433/18, of our Nation’s Medal of Honor recipients, there are thirteen Marines of Hispanic descent; eleven enlisted and two officers.
“Every Marine of Hispanic decent owes a debt of gratitude to the women and men who paved the way for us,” Rivera said. “The Marine Corps has shaped me into the man I am today and for that I will always be grateful.”