Olivia Duckworth, left, and Cassie Montelongo perform a traditional folk dance during the Hispanic Heritage cultural event at the Robins Exchange Sept. 15. Hispanic Heritage events continue on Robins Air Force Base with a picnic at Gator Park on Sept. 22. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Sheila Salas)
by Master Sgt. Elena Lund and Senior Airman Elizabeth Van Patten
94th Airlift Wing
10/15/2012 - DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. -- During her annual tour several months ago at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., Master Sgt. Elena Lund, 94th Airlift Wing law office superintendent, took note of an article in the base paper highlighting Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and how base personnel were planning to celebrate.
The article caused her to reflect on her own heritage - Mexican on her mother's side - and how she and her mother's family would celebrate during Hispanic Heritage Month.
"It occurred to me that we did not do anything in particular, but that maybe we should," said Lund. "Every Thanksgiving and Christmas the family gets together to participate in the tradition of making tamales, menudo and salsa. It concerned me however, that I could not pinpoint doing anything specific for Hispanic Heritage Month."
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded Hispanic Heritage Week to Hispanic Heritage Month. A 30-day period, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, was chosen to formally celebrate and recognize Hispanic and Latino American heritage and culture, as well as their contributions that have enriched every aspect of our nation's progress.
September 15 was not chosen arbitrarily. Five Latin American countries - Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua - all declared their independence from Spain on that day in 1821. Several other Central and South American countries would follow suit during the following days the same year.
U.S. presidents since have honored this tradition.
"Our Nation's story would not be possible without generations of Hispanics who have shaped and strengthened the fabric of our Union," said President Barack Obama. "They have enriched every aspect of our national identity with traditions that stretch across centuries and reflect the many ancestries that comprise the Hispanic community."
Those of Hispanic descent have contributed much to the development of this side of the world - beginning with the Spanish-funded rediscovery of the continent by Christopher Columbus.
The list of influential Latino Americans, doesn't just include the late and great in sports, which include: baseball players Roberto Alomar, Jose Canseco and Sammy Sosa, boxer Oscar de la Hoya and golfers Nancy Lopez and Chi Chi Rodrigez, but also scores of scientists, political figures, artists and military heroes.
Astronauts Franklin Chang-Diaz, Carlos Noriega and Ellen Ochoa all from Central or South American families - are also excellent examples of influential Latin Americans. Ochoa is credited with being the first Hispanic woman in space when she was aboard the shuttle Discovery in 1993.
The list of notable Hispanic Americans who have provided innovation, direction and talent is abundant.
The 94th Airlift Wing pays tribute to Hispanic Americans who have served and continue to serve by participating in National Hispanic Heritage Month. Col. L. Josephine Almonte, 94th Aeromedical Staging Squadron commander, is originally from the Dominican Republic.
The Air Force offered her an opportunity to be a department head in a medical facility right out of graduate school. She could not pass up that offer. She intended sign up for three years and come out with a superior resume. Twenty-seven years later, she still serves.
"The Air Force is one place where race, gender, nationality, religion, age, etc. don't matter. And, I am proud to be a senior Hispanic officer in the greatest military in the world," said Almonte. "We celebrate HHM at Dobbins because, we are proud of the many contributions that Hispanics and all other ethnic groups have made to make the US the powerful nation that it is today."
Almonte came to the U.S. with her family when she was two years old and rose to become a senior leader within the 94th Airlift Wing. She is also and a member of the Human Resources Development Council.
Lund is the chair of the Diversity and Special Observances committee, within the council.
"This year Hispanic heritage has a new meaning for me," said Lund. "I am turning over a new leaf. I pledge to embrace my Latin roots not just this month, but every month each year."