More than 50 Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola service members and civilian employees gathered at Bldg. 1504 to observe the command’s Hispanic Heritage Month observance Oct. 15.
The event, hosted by the NAS Pensacola Diversity Committee, included opening remarks from Air Traffic Controller 1st Class Chad Bradley, the committee president, and featured a speech from NAS Pensacola Command Career Counselor Chief Navy Counselor Luis Diaz.
Bradley explained that the tradition of observing Hispanic heritage began in 1968, when then-President Lyndon B. Johnson designated a week in mid-September as National Hispanic Heritage Week. Twenty years later in 1988, then-President Ronald Reagan extended the week to a month-long observance.
The heritage month’s dates refer to Independence Day anniversaries of Latin American countries – Sept. 15 is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico declared its independence Sept. 16, and Chile Sept. 18.
Diaz, a second-generation Cuban-American, spoke on the impact his grandfather, who immigrated from Cuba during the communist regime
“One of the driving forces behind what I do and why I do what I do is my grandfather,” Diaz said, during a brief speech detailing the difficulties his grandfather faced when immigrating to the United States from Cuba.
Diaz detailed how his grandfather, who had joined the Cuban Army at 17-years-old and subsequently lost both legs at the knee during a military exercise, decided to flee the communist nation, enduring ostracism from his community, even from the family and friends who called him a traitor.
Diaz explained that his grandfather, who wished to escape the oppressive then-communist Cuban government would have to wait three years and then climb the 52-step staircase – without assistance – to board an airplane in an effort to leave the country.
Diaz added that his grandfather told him that he vividly remembered each and every step to board that aircraft.
“My grandfather said that he had a bigger picture in mind, he said ‘I wasn’t doing it for me,’” Diaz said. “My father was a very young boy at the time, and my grandfather said ‘I was doing it for him. And I was doing it for his sons. I did that so the generations of my family after me could have the things that I could not.’”
Diaz closed his remarks by explaining how the sacrifices that his Cuban grandfather made have provided him and his family opportunities, explaining to the audience how the pride in his grandfather is something he holds extremely important within himself, and something he reflects on when faced with adversity while serving in the United States Navy.
As of June 2018, approximately 59,000 active and Reserve Sailors of Hispanic heritage serve in the U.S. Navy contributing to the strength of the nation’s force. Hispanic Americans’ military service dates back to the Civil War.
Naval Air Station Pensacola, referred to as the ‘Cradle of Naval Aviation,’ is designed to support operational and training missions of tenant commands, including Naval Aviation Schools Command, the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training, Marine Aviation Training Support Groups 21 and 23 and is the headquarters for Naval Education and Training Command.
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15 October 2018
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