SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.- --
Staff Sgt. Ramon Trejo, 50th Civil Engineer Squadron, and Airman 1st Class Carissa Diaz, 50th Operations Support Squadron, are among the many Hispanic Americans serving in the armed forces today, and have become an integral part of an increasingly diversified military.
Trejo grew up in a predominately Hispanic community, learning about his Mexican heritage and the values of its culture, including keeping one's family close.
"Growing up, spending time with your family was always one thing, which was emphasized throughout my immediate and extended family," said Trejo. "One of the biggest traditions was during the holidays; every single family member would gather together to spend all the festivities with one another.”
As one of the few people to leave his hometown of Clint, Texas, Trejo's decision to join the military meant extended time away from his loved ones. However, the values he was taught growing up were not lost. Instead, his service placed greater emphasis on their importance and made him cherish them even more.
"Though it may be hard to go back to my extended family at times, I try to spend as much time with my kids in hopes of showing them the importance of always being there for your loved ones," said Trejo. "For my military career, I never know when I might be called to deploy for extended periods of time so I'm sure to spend down time with those closest to me."
Diaz, however, was no stranger to the strain military life can put on families. For Diaz, who is of Puerto Rican descent, keeping one’s family close is also a staple mark of her heritage. However, growing up as an Army brat, she had few opportunities for family get-togethers. The memories of these rare family reunions are some of her fondest.
“Growing up military in general, it was usually just my mom and my dad, and dad deployed all the time,” said Diaz. “When our family did reunite, we would spend a lot of family time together, playing dominoes and watching movies.”
On holidays, especially Christmas, Diaz and her family celebrate with aspects unique to their Puerto Rican culture.
“Holidays for me mean amazing food, music, everything,” said Diaz. “On Thanksgiving instead of a turkey we would have Pernil, or pork shoulder. We’d eat our version of a tamale, pasteles, and listen to plena, traditional music from Puerto Rico. Christmas we would celebrate as soon as it turned midnight. The day before, what we call Nochebuena, where we would eat a large meal in preparation.”
Aside from their own cultural perspectives, Trejo and Diaz’s time in service opened their viewpoints to the values and customs of other cultures, something they might not have experienced if they never left their hometowns.
"My knowledge of diverse cultures and heritage was pretty limited, which changed after joining the military," said Trejo. "Meeting people from all parts of the country as well as other countries during tour of duties has given me a better understanding of other heritages."
Witnessing this melting pot of cultures firsthand, they believe diversity has helped introduce new perspectives and means for the military to flourish.
“I believe it’s a necessity. This diversity brings different ideas and way of doing things,” said Diaz. “If we had the perspective of only a handful of cultures, we wouldn’t be able to expand.”
The perspective Hispanic Americans have added to the American society and the military has made a cultural expansion warranting recognition.
Hispanic Heritage month, a month to recognize the impact those of Hispanic descent have had in our society, is celebrated Sept.15-Oct. 15. According to the Air Personnel Center website, Hispanic service members make up 13.3 percent of total Air Force personnel, and that number is growing. Hispanic service members, like others, have brought their cultural values into our ranks, contributing to the Air Force and the military as a whole.