The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), along with the rest of the Navy, observed Hispanic Heritage Month. Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, celebrating the history and accomplishments of Hispanic Americans.
Aboard the Lincoln, the crew participated in a cake-cutting ceremony. The ceremony began with Aviation Ordnance 1st Class Timothy Lopez welcoming the crowd and discussing the impact of Hispanic Americans in the United States Navy. Afterwards, the crew was treated to a musical performance by Aviation Support Technician 1st Class Uziel Betran, a piñata breaking and assorted sweets of Hispanic origin.
Keynote speaker Capt. Xavier Lugo gave a speech the included insight on the Hispanic Heritage month and also noted his own family’s heritage.
“My family is directly tied with service in the military,” said Lugo. “My grandpa was an army engineer in World War II, my dad was a tech sergeant in the Air Force, and my brother is an Air Force major working with B-2 bombers. Service is common in our family and we are proud Americans with Hispanic heritage.”
Hispanic Heritage month was originally observed for one single week in September by decree of President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. However, the observance was extended to a full thirty days by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. The now month-long observance begins Sept. 15 to commemorate the anniversary of multiple Latin-American countries’ independence days including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
As of June 2018, there are approximately 59,000 Navy service members, both active-duty and reservists, of Hispanic heritage, who contribute to the Navy’s diversity and strength. First fighting in the Revolutionary War, their service pre-dates the foundation of this country.
One of the most notable Hispanic Sailors from naval history was David Glasgow Farragut. His Hispanic heritage stems from his father, Jorge Farragut, who immigrated from the island of Minorca off the coast of Spain. Following in his father’s footsteps, David Farragut served during the American Civil War, successfully leading Sailors in the capture of multiple key locations.
For his actions, David Farragut was made the Navy’s first Admiral. When he passed away on Aug. 14, 1870, his funeral procession was led by President Ulysses S. Grant and included 10,000 service members. In Washington D.C., a statue of Farragut was erected to honor him, in an area now known as Farragut Square.
David Farragut is not the only remarkable Sailor of Hispanic descent though. During the Second World War, ace pilot Eugene Valencia of San Francisco was known for leading the most successful fighter plane division in American naval history with 23 victories. Valencia served aboard the USS Yorktown (CV 10) and his fighter plane division were known as “Valencia’s Flying Circus.”
Sixty service members of Hispanic descent have been awarded the Medal of Honor, two of whom were members of the Navy, 13 from Marines and 46 were from the Army.
On Mar. 23, 2003 in the battle of An-Nasiriyah, Hospitalman Apprentice Luis Fonseca was with Marines when their vehicle was struck by a rocket propelled grenade. Fonseca managed to pull five Marines from the burning vehicle and administer first aid. When his makeshift medical station came under fire, Fonseca directed the movement of his patients and even carried one of the wounded through open ground. His actions earned him the Navy Cross, the second highest decoration for members in the Navy.
These Hispanic Sailors and many others who have left their mark on naval history continue to be models for others to follow. The celebration aboard Lincoln commemorated these men and women. Through leadership and actions, many Hispanic Americans continue to uphold the traditions and values of the United States Navy as they serve to protect the country’s freedom and fight for peace.
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16 October 2018
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