Serving our nation with pride, honor

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Eric Sapp
  • 28th Bomb Wing Equal Opportunity Office
The national observance of Hispanic heritage began in 1968 when President Lyndon B. Johnson designated one week in September as Hispanic Heritage Week.

Hispanic Heritage Week was later expanded by President Ronald Reagan to Hispanic Heritage Month in 1988 - covering a 30-day period beginning Sept. 15 and ending Oct. 15.

The purpose of this special month is to celebrate the contributions of Americans whose ancestors immigrated to the U.S. from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. The theme for 2013 is "Hispanics: Serving and Leading Our Nation with Pride and Honor."

For generations, Hispanics have shaped and strengthened the foundation of the U.S. One of those Hispanics is Antonia Novello.

From birth, Novello suffered from a chronic health condition requiring hospitalization. Her experiences as a patient led her to choose medicine as a career and she earned an undergraduate and a medical degree in her native country, Puerto Rico.

With her sights set on helping suffering children, she decided to become a pediatrician and focused her efforts in the pediatric auto immune deficiency syndrome field. The culmination of her efforts came when she was appointed surgeon general in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush.

During her time as surgeon general, Novello campaigned for more AIDS education, as well as health care for minorities, women and children. In 1993, she left her post and assumed new duties as a special representative for health and nutrition with the United Nations Children's Fund.

Another Hispanic American who's had a positive impact in our country is Dennis Chavez - a very influential and well-known Hispanic American. Chavez served as a politician in New Mexico and was known by many as one of the most-accomplished politicians in the state.

Chavez was the main force in attaining important projects that shaped economic, social and historical development of the 47th state. In 1922, Chavez was elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives. He was appointed to numerous powerful committees including Public Land, Public Building and Irrigation and Reclamation.

During his second term, he became chairman of the Committee for Irrigation and Reclamation. From the time he arrived in Washington, Chavez was a supporter of President Roosevelt's New Deal, which was responsible for transforming government, business, agriculture, banking, industry and, most important to Chavez, education. Senator Chavez was also an early advocate of civil rights.

In addition to Novello and Chavez, Dr. Ellen Ochoa made several contributions to our country. In 1990, the California native was selected as an astronaut candidate by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration program and became the first Hispanic female astronaut.

Ochoa earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from San Diego State University, Calif., and a Master of Science, and Doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University, Calif.

Dr. Ochoa coordinated the transfer of supplies and operated the Remote Manipulator System during an eight-hour spacewalk while participating in the first docking of the International Space Station.

She is a co-inventor on three patents for an optical inspection system, an optical object recognition method, and a method for noise removal in images. Today, Ochoa is deputy director of Flight Crew Operations at the Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston.

Many Hispanics have overcome obstacles to persevere and flourish in every sector of our society. Hispanics have exerted a profound influence on our country through their strong commitment to family, hard work, and public service. They have enhanced and shaped our national character with centuries-old traditions that reflect their multi-ethnic and multi-cultural customs.

During this month, let us all celebrate the immeasurable contributions these individuals and others have made to our nation from its inception to present day.