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Querer es Poder

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- I often reflect on what a great privilege it is to serve for a military service composed of people from all the corners of the earth fighting together for a common purpose, world peace!

This is a family of professionals which grows in strength and courage through its diverse members offering unique and unmatched capabilities to meet all challenges.  

The Air Force appreciates what each member does for our country and recognizes the accomplishments of all heritage groups.  From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, our Air Force celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month. 

The history of Hispanics in the Americas started in 1492 when Christopher Columbus arrived in the new and stretches to today. Hispanics have served the armed forces since the American Revolutionary War to our current war in Afghanistan with 42 Hispanics receiving the Medal of Honor. 

Our first was Cpl. Joseph H. De Castro of the Union Army on 3 July 1863 and our most recent, Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry fighting in Afghanistan. We honor them for their sacrifices.

It is always important to pay tributes to our fallen warriors but it is also important to recognize those who excelled when challenged, such as flying ace Col. Manuel J. Fernandez who flew 125 combat missions in the Korean war, Gen. Richard E. Cavazos who became the army's first Hispanic four-Star general, and Edward Hidalgo, the Secretary of the Navy in 1979.  These great men contributed significantly to the success of the U.S. military. 

I am Hispanic and I am very thankful to my parents that ventured into the United States in search of the American Dream!  They ventured into the factories of New Jersey where they met and started a family.  I am a first generation American of Colombian parents who, ever since my brothers and sisters were young, told us of the violence they experienced as they grew up leading them to migrate. 

It is important to recognize the sacrifices and courage of many Hispanics that left their loved ones to face many challenges and hardships.  Sometimes they don't have a choice as for example those who are affected by the violence of narco-terrorism and claim political asylum.  Many Hispanics have surpassed all adversities and have become role models for all! 

One story in particular that I want to highlight is of Olga Custodio who wanted to be a military pilot but was turned down by two military branches.   This did not stop her efforts to make her dream come true as she tried once more when the Air Force was recruiting women to become pilots.  Eventually, she became the first Latina to make it through military flight school and finished a 20-year career as a pilot for American Airlines.  Her advice to all is that people should not give up on their dreams and her mantra is: "Querer es Poder." 

There are several ways to immerse into the Hispanic Cultural and learn its past, and two of them are through the Linguistic Enabled Airmen Program (LEAP) and the Hispanic Heritage Committee.  I am part of LEAP and I just came back from a linguistic and cultural immersion in Brasilia, Brazil where I had the opportunity to learn a new language and discover the fascinating Brazilian culture. 

The Hispanic Heritage Committee is another way to get involved with activities throughout the year and I heard they are working a Latin dance program, Spanish classes and cooking.  And don't forget, " Querer es Poder."