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Senior NCO represents selfless service, Hispanic culture

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By SGT. MAJ. RAYMOND RODRIGUEZ JR./TAGD Sergeant Major

As an American Soldier and a Hispanic-American who is proud of his Latino heritage and our great nation, I am honored to represent the selfless service of Hispanics serving in the United States Army and our armed forces.

The U.S. Hispanic population has significantly increased over the past 30 years by 12 percent. Sixteen percent of the U.S. population identifies themselves as Hispanic or Latino. As the largest and fastest growing demographic, we number 52 million strong. Many are dedicated Soldiers, Army civilians and Family members who have occupied duties, responsibility and trust at all ranks. Through hard work, Hispanic-Americans continue to provide invaluable contributions in making our nation strong.

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, I would like to share some of my Family contributions that helped me throughout my career to serve, empower and continue to enrich our diverse Army.

Growing up in Long Island, New York, in 1966 and spending my entire childhood there, I was a minority, but able to avoid diversity due to my strong Family values and beliefs. Proud to be a Hispanic and have my father, two grandfathers, two uncles, one cousin and my son all serve in the Air Force, Marines and Army. Proud that they served in World War II, Vietnam and Operation Iraqi Freedom, my family history is what embraced me to serve today. They showed me, as with other Hispanic-Americans who served our great nation, to fight for something and someone who did not always regard them as equal. When joining the military, there were some obstacles I had to overcome. However, I instill treating everyone with dignity and respect, no matter where you come from.

I am a nonspeaking Hispanic married to a Spanish speaking spouse. I tell this story to share diversity as a Hispanic-American. Do I consider myself Hispanic-American? The answer is “I am a proud American, of Puerto-Rican descent.” After all, although I might not speak Spanish, I am not limited or defined by not speaking the language. Instead I take advantage of opportunities provided to me to overcome and buildup strength to provide common unity as a Hispanic-American leader.

For over three decades while serving this great Army, I have seen how much better we are today because of diversity and to reach our full potential. Whatever individual backgrounds they came from, Hispanic-Americans came to serve their country with strength and honor. Some like my Family, with rich military background, all wanted to serve and defend our country and tell their story regardless of race, religion or gender.

So my Army story would not be possible without generations of my Family and other outstanding Hispanic-Americans leaders who shaped and strengthened our future team. I have learned to be a better teacher, mentor and coach in every aspect by identifying traditions through strong Family ties and military and community service. Hispanic-Americans have empowered America with honor and distinction each and every day regardless of where we come from, look like or language you speak. Again, it is my honor to recognize Hispanic Heritage Month and appreciate the legacy that we leave behind for future generations.

Join U.S. Army Human Resources Command in celebrating the 2016 National Hispanic Heritage Month observance “Embracing, Enriching and Enabling America” from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Wednesday at Haszard Auditorium. Edgardo Mansilla, executive director of Americana Community Center in Louisville will be the guest speaker. Flamenco Louisville will also perform a song and dance routine. There will be a food tasting immediately following the program. The public is invited to attend. For more information about this event, contact Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Bryant, (502) 613-4025.