First observed in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson as Hispanic Heritage Week and later broadened into 30 days and enacted into law by President Ronald Reagan Aug. 17, 1988, Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 every year. The month is a recognition and celebration of Hispanic people including those in the armed forces as well as first responders, as there are many unique and notable Hispanic service members, police, firefighters and paramedics all deserving of our honor.
Staff Sgt. Henry Meza: "He's going to be a soldier."
Staff Sgt. Henry Meza, a Honduran-born member of the Iowa National Guard, had the idea from a very young age that he was destined to serve. His grandmother used to say to friends and family, "He's going to be a soldier."
Growing up in his birthplace of Siguatepeque, Honduras, which had no electricity, Meza helped out with his family's coffee business by working on a farm. He regularly hauled 100-pound bags of coffee beans on his back at the age of 10. When he was 12, he immigrated to the U.S. to join his mother in New Jersey. Having been very active in school with track, wrestling and soccer, he earned a sports scholarship to Grand View University in Iowa. In 2012, he enrolled in the Iowa National Guard.
Meza found a special place in the National Guard's Service to Citizenship program, which helps relatives of young adults in the Guard become U.S. citizens. Meza, who gained citizenship in 2013, is well aware of how arduous the process can be without assistance from initiatives like these. Speaking of the program, he says diversity makes the National Guard more capable by connecting the military branch to different cultures and walks of life. When those people see others who share the same culture, they're more inclined to join the Guard, he says.
Sergeant Diana Munoz: The first Hispanic police sergeant in Greenville, S.C.
Diana Munoz knows that when first responders answer a call from a Hispanic family, they might be wary of trusting them. But when Munoz, who was born in Colombia, South America shows up, they're immediately put at ease.
A historic figure in Greenville, S.C., Munoz was the first Hispanic police sergeant to serve in the town's police department. As a supervisor, she's responsible for officers both in the Law Enforcement Center and when they're outside and on-duty.
Munoz hopes to one day be a police captain, though she acknowledges that she has a lot of work to do to reach that goal.
Joining Forces With the First Fully Spanish SNCO Course
New Mexico Air National Guard Master Sgt. Diana Melero-Sena participated in the first International Senior Noncommissioned Officer Course hosted completely in Spanish at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, between Oct. 4 and Dec. 8, 2021. Taught in the course were core leadership principles, ways to unite different forces and best practices meant to inspire the formation of strong professional relationships. Melero-Sena was one of two Citizen-Airmen who enrolled. The proud daughter of Mexican immigrants, she said that when she heard the Inter-American Air Forces Academy (IAAFA) was hosting a fully Spanish SNCO course, she knew she had to attend.
As the National Guard knows, with diversity comes strength. People of different cultures feel they have a place in the Guard because they see others sharing their culture within it. With the theme of 2022's Hispanic Heritage Month being "Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation," the period reminds us that Hispanic Americans and everything they bring from their different cultures stand out as invaluable and integral parts of American society.