Hispanic Heritage Month starts Sept. 15

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Starting on Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

Do you know why we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month during this time? Sept. 15 is the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile also declared their independence during the month of September.

We need to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to showcase how Hispanic Americans contribute to our culture. Today and every day, we embrace the richness of culture the Hispanic American's have brought to the table through diversity and a commitment to make this country better than it already is.

Let's take a look at some of the great Hispanic American's in our nation's history:

• David Bennes Barkley, in 1989, was recognized by the U.S. Army as its first Hispanic Medal of Honor recipient. Barkley successfully swam across a freezing river to gather intellegence on enemy positioning. Upon his return, he seized up with cramps and drowned.

• Dolores Huerta worked tirelessly to improve the lives for farm workers.

Huerta said, “I couldn’t stand seeing kids come to class hungry and needing shoes. I thought I could do more by organizing farm workers than by trying to teach their hungry children.”

Dolores is one of 13 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, for her meritorious contributions to the United States.

• Angela Salinas became the first Hispanic woman to hold the rank of brigadier general. Upon her retirement in 2013, she also earned the distinction as the longest serving woman in the history of the Marine Corps.

• Alfred Rascon was a U.S. Army medic in 1966 when his unit fell under a vicious attack. He pulled soldiers to safety and used his body to shield an injured sergeant from a grenade. Despite his injuries, he refused morphine so he could continue treating wounded soldiers. He was nominated to receive the Medal of Honor, but the written recommendation was lost. Many years later, the men who owed their lives to Rascon went to the House Veterans Affairs Committee for action so he could be properly recognized. In 2000, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Some of the men he saved were in attendance.