The days of Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 have been designated as Hispanic Heritage Month by the Aug. 17, 1988, Public Law 100-402. The Michigan National Guard counts many Hispanic service members amongst its ranks and it is appropriate that two serving Michigan Guard Soldiers, Capt. Raphael Trujillo and Sgt. David Rivera be given the opportunity to tell what Hispanic Heritage Month means to them.
What does your Hispanic heritage mean to you?
Trujillo: My Hispanic heritage ties me to what is great about America, we are not a country of any particular race or origin, we are a country of diverse people groups with unique cultural and familial origins tossed together like a salad in one beautiful giant bowl. We exist next to each other but we are one. I am a US Citizen and thus American; but my family of origin is a minority in this country- especially in Michigan, therefore I can offer insight to whoever will listen -about the differences of life in America as a minority. It is my conviction that our differences make us stronger.
Rivera: Hispanic Heritage reminds the next generation to remember and respect their ancestry and highlights Hispanic-American contributions to society. It also educates and familiarizes non-Hispanics with the culture and creates an awareness of it. Hispanic is a general term for Spanish speaking people such as Mexicans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, etc.
Are there Hispanic historical military personalities or military family members who are inspirational to you?
Trujillo: When I was young I was in the Civil Air Patrol, circa 1993-1995. The commander of my Wing was Capt. David Perez. His children, Tanya and David were both in CAP. They loved him as a father and admired him as a leader. He was a gentle giant that encouraged me to be proud of who I am. My stepfather was very negative about my heritage, racial bias was ever-present in my child-hood home and Perez would remind me that the substance of who I am is not to be ashamed of. I am forever grateful to him. He also taught me how to fly Cessnas and conduct survival search and rescue operations in the Arizona deserts, so he is also a tough guy role model.
Rivera: My inspiration is Dr. Hector P. Garcia, what I’ve read about his life and military career should be an inspiration to all Americans. When you read about the struggle Hispanics had to go through to serve in the U. S. military, to not be seen as second-class citizens before and after service, is eye opening. PBS has a very good documentary on his WWII service and life after fighting for veterans and Mexican-American rights.