Hispanic Heritage Month acknowledges history, instills pride

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Erika Cecilio (left) and Chief Warrant Officer Ricky T. Brown, conclude a traditional Mexican dance at a Hispanic Heritage Month observance Oct. 10 at the Kinser Surfside on Camp Kinser. Brown is a data and communications officer with Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF. Cecilio is a dancer with Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Okinawa. Photo by Lance Cpl. Diamond N. Peden
Erika Cecilio (left) and Chief Warrant Officer Ricky T. Brown, conclude a traditional Mexican dance at a Hispanic Heritage Month observance Oct. 10 at the Kinser Surfside on Camp Kinser. Brown is a data and communications officer with Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF. Cecilio is a dancer with Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Okinawa. Photo by Lance Cpl. Diamond N. Peden

Hispanic Heritage Month acknowledges history, instills pride

by: Cpl, Natalie M. Rostran | .
Okinawa Marine Staff | .
published: October 18, 2013

As Marines, we carry a certain pride about us. We are considered the world’s finest fighting force and with good reason. We are expected to be faster, stronger and better all-around.

On top of being a Marine, I am very proud to be an American. Our country’s landscape is made of towering metropolises, vast farm fields, and the snowcapped Rocky Mountains. It is our sense of democracy and work ethic that make Americans such proud people.

As a first-generation American, my parents raised me to be proud of my American citizenship but to never forget my heritage.

I am a proud Latino. My parents are both from Honduras, a Central American country.

It was in New York that my parents met, married, and started a family. It was in New York that my brother and I announced our intentions to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps, and our parents couldn’t have been more proud.

They are honored to have two children serving the country that gave them the freedom and success they have today. They brag to anyone who will listen about
their two Marines; one in Afghanistan, the other in Japan.

Becoming a Marine was the proudest moment of my life. I never had to work so hard for something before, and that made it even sweeter. The months of
hard work, blood and sweat were worth it.

Hispanics have been serving in the Marine Corps since before the Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the 20th century.

It was during this life or death struggle that Mexican-American Pvt. France Silva earned the Medal of Honor for his meritorious conduct during the Siege of
the Legations.

Silva’s Medal of Honor was the first for a Marine of Latino descent and was a notable moment in our illustrious Marine Corps history. We have fought
and perished alongside each other as Marine brothers and sisters ever since.

Hispanic Marines fought in both World Wars, the Banana Wars in Central America, the Korean War and in the Vietnam War. More recently, we’ve served in the Gulf War and military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Even here on Okinawa, Hispanic Marines have a history of valor.

In 1945, Maj. Gen. Pedro A. del Valle, the first Hispanic Marine general, led the 1st Marine Division during the Battle of Okinawa.

That same year, on Okinawa, Pfc. Harold Gonsalves earned the Medal of Honor after giving his life for his fellow Marines by shielding them from an enemy
grenade with his body. Gonsalves is the only Hispanic Marine to earn the Medal of Honor during World War II.

Camp Gonsalves, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, home to the Jungle Warfare Training Center, is named in his honor.

As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close, I reflect back on all the Latino service members who came before me – Marines who served honorably and just
happened to also be Hispanic.

I was born a Hispanic female in America; those are factors I couldn’t control. I chose to become a U.S. Marine, and that’s the part of me I’m most proud of.

I am a Latino woman, I am an American, and above all, I am a U.S. Marine.