BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month, means highlighting the many contributions this community has given to the U.S. For generations Latino families have sent their sons and daughters to serve for our country.
23ABC highlighted their military veteran staff who said it was their cultural connection to other servicemembers that helped them get through their time serving.
The number of Hispanic Americans in uniform is growing faster than any other group.
The latest data from the Bureau of Global Public Affairs show that in 2019, 16 percent of active-duty Army members were Hispanic Americans and just over 15 percent of Air Force personnel identify as Hispanic or Latino.
But the contributions go far back, according to the national WWII museum, over 500,000 Latinos served in WWII.
One of the many was our Photojournalist, Noe Gonzalez’ grandfather. For Noe, his grandfather's enlisting made being in the military part of the family culture.
“I was anchoring and reporting for a small television station, but I hadn’t served my country and i thought it needed to be done.”
So, he left his job to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and father and in 1975 joined the Marine Corp.
“A lot of the young men who were in my platoon were Latinos, quite a few of them as a matter of fact.”
He says this familiarity helped grow a bond.
“All the Marines from the southwest were Mexican American, we all knew what we ate, we knew our customs, we knew that mom threw a chancla at us, we knew the Llorona, we knew what the culture was all about, we all knew each other.”
For the first time he also met Latinos that looked and spoke differently. Latinos from Puerto Rico, New Mexico, and Chicago that all had different customs.
It was that cultural connection our Director of Engineering, Jose Gonzalez, says he experienced when he joined the Marine Corp in 2008.
“I was 18-years-old; I had an uncle that was in the Air Force and a cousin that was in the Army.”
He spent four years in North Carolina where he was deployed twice and then re-enlisted in 2012. “At the time I re-enlisted I was in Afghanistan, I re-enlisted because I loved the marine corp.”
He says, although being away could be hard, he found a piece of home in other Latino service members.
“You go with what you know, and I met a lot of people from California that were Latino and I kind of went towards them because you know it was different up there for us so we just stuck together. Also, people from Texas. You know we had similarities, we talked mainly about where we came from, how our parents grew up, how we grew up, the food we eat, the culture, and that is how we stuck together. That is how we made a pretty good bond with each other.”
Both say the bonds made there have turned into lifelong friendships, but above all, are left with a love for the Marine Corp and pride in serving this country.