WASHINGTON — National Hispanic Heritage History Month is a time for Americans to "renew our commitment to honoring the invaluable ways Hispanics contribute to our common goals, to celebrating Hispanic culture, and to working toward a stronger, more inclusive, and more prosperous society for all," according to President Barack Obama's proclamation released last month.
For Active Guard Reserve soldier Capt. Daniel Lopez-Guerrero, a student in the Captains Career Course for the logistics branch, that means reflecting on his past — and that of his Honduran wife, Jenny Lopez-Guerrero.
Daniel said that when his parents were very young they came to Miami from Cuba at the beginning of the Cuban exodus. He said they have been U.S. citizens for the past 40 years, living in Miami, where he grew up.
Service to America
"My father came to the United States when he was eight years old because his parents understood the outcomes that were going to happen after Fidel Castro came into power," he said. "My role model, my father, always made it a point to show us — even though he didn't serve in the military — he always made it a point to teach us that the freedom and rights we have and the society we live in wasn't given to us free. It's been paid for in blood. It's been built on the sacrifice of many generations that came before us."
He said that sense of patriotism led him to wear the uniforms of a Boy Scout, Eagle Scout, Civil Air Patrol cadet, and later, soldier.
"I've always enjoyed the structure of having a uniform and everything that came with it," Daniel said.
Daniel's wife said she is also proud of both her heritage and of being an American.
"I was born in Honduras and came to live in Miami when I was 13 years old," Jenny said. "It's been a great experience to continue to have my culture and my roots around while I had the opportunity to become an American citizen. Now, I couldn't be prouder to be an Army wife."
Jenny's brother, Army Sgt. 1st Class Jorge Medina, is a Kiowa helicopter crew chief.
"I'm very proud he joined the military," she said.
Keeping Heritage Strong
The Lopez-Guerreros said they are proud they raised their three children to respect their Hispanic heritage and to speak and write in fluent Spanish.
"I consider myself an American through and through, but I also believe it's important to understand where you come from," Daniel said.
Jenny said she is also proud of their children for more than their grasp of the language, which they still speak today.
"I'm also very proud that although our three children were born here, they're very much into soccer, our national sport in Honduras," Jenny said. "In Cuba, they don't play soccer. Their national sport is baseball ... I was very proud of my middle daughter when she played soccer in Savannah when we were stationed at Fort Stewart.
"It just extends my love for America and having a little bit of Honduras in my American kids," she added. "It also makes me proud to see how soccer is growing in this country and how people are getting to love it as much as my country does."
Diversity in Service
Daniel said all ethnicities bring different perspectives on different cultures within the military and make it a stronger force. He said it's a reflection of regular American society and that one of the strengths of the United States is that it has people from all over the world and from all walks of life.
"Being Hispanic, we're very family-oriented, and I see my soldiers as an extension of my family. I've got to do everything I can to make sure they advance and make sure they're taken care of," Daniel said, adding that his heritage has also helped him be more accepting of other customs and cultures and work with people of various nationalities.
Jenny added that Hispanics "are a lively group. It's a rich culture … We're very dedicated; we're very loyal. There's a lot to learn from every different culture, and we Latinos have a lot to give to the world."
Jenny and Daniel are both working on their master's degrees and plan to continue on to earn their doctorate degrees. They said they both aim to teach at online universities and will continue to honor their heritage and patriotism.
"As a group of Hispanics in the United States, we are grateful for the opportunity for being in this country and for having all the opportunities we are given," Jenny said.