• Post recognizes Hispanic heritage, service

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  • Christopher Burnett | Staff Writer
    Gregorio Flores Jr., deputy director of Executive Services, served as the guest speaker for the 2017 Hispanic Heritage Month luncheon Sept. 27 at the Frontier Conference Center. “Shaping a Brighter Future” was the theme.
    “Bienvenidos — Welcome. Es un placer estar aqui — It is a pleasure to be here,” Flores said. “I am a second generation Mexican-American, as my maternal grandparents were from Mexico.”
    Flores, a retired Army major, spoke about his family and said his father received his general education diploma while serving in the Navy. He said his mother received her high school diploma but did not pursue college.
    “Post-secondary education was not something many Hispanics did at the time,” Flores said. “I lost my father at the age of two during his service in the Vietnam War.”
    Flores said his mother and Spanish-speaking grandparents raised him. He said Spanish was his primary language until he started public school where he learned English.
    Flores highlighted some of the accomplishments, contributions and sacrifices made by Hispanics in the United States. He said many served with distinction as members of the military.
    “The contributions Hispanics have made throughout the history of the (United States) have been exemplary,” Flores said. “From the American Revolutionary War, with Gen. Bernardo de Galvez ... to the Battle of the Alamo in 1836 where several Mexicans took to fight for the U.S. after the Mexican government’s treatment of Texans was appalling.”
    Flores said 10,000 Mexican-Americans volunteers fought in the regular Army and volunteer units during the U.S. Civil War. He said of the more than 40,000 books and pamphlets written about the U.S. Civil War, only “Vaqueros in Blue and Gray” by Jerry Thompson and Felix D. Almaraz discusses the role of Mexican-Americans in the Civil War.
    “Hispanics continued to play a pivotal role during the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II, too,” Flores said. “Allow me to draw attention to World War II, focusing on Army Pfc. Santiago H. Esparza, who was born in 1924.”
    Flores said Esparza was the oldest son of 14 children, an exemplary student and talented football player. He said the Army drafted Esparza at age 17.
    “In January 1942, he left Texas to serve his country assigned to B Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina,” Flores said. “Pfc. Esparza was part of the first parachute infantry regiment mass combat jumps into Sicily, Salerno, Normandy and Holland in support of Operation Market Garden.”
    Flores shared excerpts from letters written to Esparza’s mother by some of those who had served with him in combat during World War II. He said Esparaza, who was his uncle, still serves as an excellent example of all Hispanic heritage.
    Page 2 of 2 - “While growing up, my mother would always tell me that her oldest brother escaped from a prisoner-of-war camp in Emmerich, Germany,” Flores said. “It never dawned on me ... My uncle was killed in action on Dec. 23, 1944, and was never able to go back to the home he left at the age of 17.”
    Flores said the effect Hispanic soldiers have had on the United States is significant. He said their legacy is motivational and positive.
    “We are a diverse nation that welcomes everyone,” Flores said. “Thus, the Army will have increasing opportunities to bring new ideas and expanded capabilities to the mission. We must be prepared to recruit, develop and retain the best of America’s diverse talent pool.”
    Flores said Dr. John Chavez, a student adviser at Ashford University, wants Hispanics to imagine “shaping a brighter future” as deeply as they can. He said Chavez believes by doing this mental exercise everyone has the opportunity to make a positive difference in society.
    “It means working hard and realizing the future is that difference,” Flores said. “In all these examples I have set before you, that is what the Hispanic community has been doing.”
    The United States observes Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 annually by celebrating the heritage, culture and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States.
    The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on Sept. 15 and ending on Oct. 15. Hispanic Heritage Month was enacted into law on Aug. 17, 1988, within Public Law 100-402.
    The next Equal Opportunity luncheon is Nov. 15 at the Frontier Conference Center and will celebrate National American Indian Heritage Month.
    Tickets are available from the Equal Opportunity office and unit Equal Opportunity liaisons.
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