NAVAL BASE KITSAP-BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- From the very first moments of a Sailor’s indoctrination into the Navy, they are taught they are one team, engaged in one fight. People from every demographic in the country answer the nations call to arms, from all ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic backgrounds. All wear the same uniform, assimilate into the same culture, and strive towards the success of the same mission in the defense of the nation. However, an important component of the Navy is the awareness and celebration of the vastly differing heritages that make up the fleet. For many generations, Hispanic-Americans have proudly served in the U.S. Navy and had an immense impact on the success of the nation.
The Hispanic culture is celebrated in the armed services each year from September 15 to October 15, and Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) are proudly recognizing their cultural backgrounds as a defining aspect of their past, present and future.
The celebration of Hispanic heritage began in 1968, when President Lyndon B. Johnson established Hispanic Heritage Week. President Ronald Reagan expanded the celebration to 30 days, and this change was implemented on August 17, 1988. This month long celebration was officially enacted to pay tribute to the generations of Hispanic-Americans who have positively influenced and enriched the nation and society.
Hispanic American culture and influence on the Navy has long been a fruitful component of the Navy’s diverse ranks, and the celebration of the ethnicity is seen as an important and positive entity.
Culinary Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gabriel Hernandezchavarria, a Nimitz Sailor from Roanoke, Va., thinks this month of appreciation towards the culture could possibly help recruit more people of Hispanic ethnicity.
“I think the increased awareness of this month could inspire more Hispanics to join the Navy, especially if they take pride in their culture and see that we also take pride in reveling in our heritage while helping defend the nation,” said Hernandezchavarria.
Born in Mexico and immigrating to the United States during his childhood, Hernandezchavarria credits his background with assisting him on his journey towards success.
“Looking back at where I came from and where I am now really helps me stay grounded. I have a sense of humility that helps me stay on track with my goals, and I am committed to continuing a proud tradition of celebrating my culture,” said Hernandezchavarria. “I believe we should continue and even increase the awareness and spotlighting of the cultural diversity in the Navy. I believe it’s very important to retain your cultural background and be proud of it.”
Other Sailors onboard Nimitz have similar feelings and believe highlighting Hispanic culture in the Navy is essential to a healthy operational environment and could also serve as an inspiration to a younger generation.
“While we are all wearing the same uniform, it is imperative to not be divided by race while maintaining a sense of identity with your heritage,” said Chief Culinary Specialist Tasia Peñaranda, from Bridgeport, Conn. “I try to excel and succeed at every aspect of my life and, as a Hispanic female chief, I hope that I can be an inspiration for others inside the Navy and out to let them know that you can achieve your goals if you work hard and put your mind to it regardless of your background.”
Onboard Nimitz, the multi-cultural committee is dedicated to ensuring proper celebrations and awareness raising events are held throughout the command. Each year, Hispanic Heritage month is given a different theme, and the theme for this year is “Shaping the Bright Future of America.” Some of the events being planned are presentations, fundraisers, culinary exhibitions and demonstrations of customary traditions in Hispanic and Latin American countries, with the end goal of educating and inspiring future generations to take pride in their cultures and continue the longevity of those nations identities.
Today, 12,000 Hispanic Americans are employed by the Department of the Navy, occupying all positions and achieving every rank from Seaman to Admiral. 17% of the Navy’s enlisted force can trace their roots to the many Hispanic countries, with over 1200 chief petty officers among them. Eight percent of the Officer ranks, including four percent of all admirals also fall into that category.
Hispanic Americans have long been a constructive, augmenting ethnicity positively attributing to the growth, success and permanence of the Navy, and the United States as a whole. While a short 30 days will not fully encompass and emphasize the impact Hispanic Americans have had, the awareness and education raised, supplemented by the astounding celebrations and demonstrations of fierce pride, will continue to help Sailors stay in touch with their roots and promote diversity and inclusion in today’s Navy.
For more information on the history of Hispanic Americans in the Navy visit: www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/diversity/hispanic-americans-in-the-navy.html/.
For more news from USS Nimitz (CVN 68), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn68/.