HANSOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass.
– Massachusetts National Guard leaders, along with elected state officials, gathered at the Joint Force Headquarters here Wednesday to honor and acknowledge the many contributions of Hispanics to our country, state, and military during a Hispanic Heritage Month event.
Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, The Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard, joined with State Command Sgt. Maj. David Costa and other National Guard leaders to welcome State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, who represents the 2nd Suffolk District in the Massachusetts Senate.
Nationally, Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity for the country to acknowledge the numerous contributions of Hispanics to our national fiber.
As a commander, Rice said, “my objective is diversity of thought. Every single group: men, women, Hispanic, African-American – it doesn’t matter to me – all people are equal and in what they can bring to the table in doing this great business we’re in, and that is the business of community service,” said Rice.
Chang-Diaz recounted the journey of her father, Franklin Chang-Diaz, the first naturalized U.S. citizen to become an astronaut. Her father, she said, was deeply captivated by the space race that was happening during his childhood, as the United States and Russia played a continuous game of ‘one-upsmanship’ in orbital achievements.
“When adults asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up, his answer was that he wanted to go to space.
“He took the initiative to write a letter to a NASA administrator announcing his intentions to become an astronaut and seeking any advice. He received a letter back from NASA, and this person had taken the time to get out a ruler and red pencil to underline the portion of the letter that said ‘careers in NASA are generally reserved for U.S. citizens.’”
“My dad being my dad, however, was not discouraged by this. He simply interpreted it as encouragement to come to the United States and become a U.S. citizen.”
Her father boarded a plane with a one-way ticket and $50 in his pocket, she said. From his humble beginnings, Franklin Chang-Diaz eventually earned a PhD in Plasma Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He went on to be elected in 2012 to the NASA Astronaut Hall of Fame.
“We are a very rich tapestry in the state of Massachusetts in regards to the different cultures that come to form this great state. I’m so proud of the work we do,” she said.
“I want to thank you for choosing to be a part of something that is larger than yourself,” she said, as she addressed the numerous National Guard service members in the audience. “That, I feel, is what Hispanic Heritage month is all about: being part of something that is larger than yourself.”
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated annually between the days of September 15 and October 15. These dates are significant, as September 15 is the anniversary of independence for the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively.
The observation of Hispanic Heritage Month traces its roots to 1968, when President Lyndon Johnston proclaimed the week including September 15 and September 16 to be Hispanic Heritage Week. The week was later expanded into current Hispanic Heritage Month under President Ronald Reagan in 1988.