National Security

Our Veteranos – A Legacy of Valor

November 11, 2019  • Rodrigo Garcia

The Latino community has a long and proud history of serving this country; Latino sons and daughters have not hesitated to defend this nation’s honor and have shown their allegiance through military service and sacrifice. Our community has established a long tradition of exemplary devotion as evidenced by the 40 plus Latino Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.

The Latino community has helped build and defend this country since its inception. Whether it was General de Galvez leading a diverse military force in the American Revolution, the western vaqueros of the Civil War, or the 500,000 Latino veterans whom honorably served in World War II, these brave men and women are our community’s veteranos and have established a legacy of valor. For further evidence, look to the town of Silvis, Illinois on the banks of the Mississippi River, where eight soldiers of Mexican American descent, all of whom lived on a single street, gave their lives fighting in World War II. This street, consisting of roughly twenty-five homes, has sent over one hundred residents into military service since World War II. Formerly known as Second Street, it’s now referred to as “Hero Street USA.” One of the first U.S. servicemen killed in combat in Iraq was a Latino veteran who came to this country at the tender age of 14 by hopping freight trains all the way from Guatemala. Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez, a rifleman with the U.S. Marine Corps, died for the land he loved so much. These are American stories, the history of Latinos in America’s defense.

Latinos make up 15% of active duty military personnel, including 21% of active duty Marines.

Ideals of unrelenting service, patriotism and sacrifice are core principles that Latinos value and actively work to embody in our everyday decisions and routines. That is why it is no coincidence that Latinos make up 15% of active duty military personnel, including 21% of active duty Marines. Latinos are leaders in all aspects of everyday life. From the brave men and women in uniform, to the small-business owners on Main Street, to the corporate titans in the boardroom. Across America, Latinos protect neighborhoods as police officers and first responders, guide young people as teachers and mentors, and boost economic growth as business owners and operators. We have built iconic skyscrapers, designed classic American automobiles, and created trendy new fashions.

It is without question that Latinos are proud to serve this country and have done so with distinction, despite rarely making it into the highest ranks of the military. Acknowledgement of Latino history of service and patriotism is as important to recognize today as it ever has been with a return to heightened harmful rhetoric culminating in acts of hate and violence as evidenced by the shooting in El Paso, TX to kill Mexicans. The Latino commitment to serving this nation will define this generation and our nation’s collective future. We, as Americans, must recognize that no matter the circumstances or the journey that brought our families to this country, we all stand here together today. America will always be in a constant state of evolution—changing and reweaving the fabric of this nation, and we must be willing to defend it, together.

Each of us can look at the lives and legacies of the heroes who came before us as we dedicate ourselves to the core values that unite us all and that guide us every day. And that is why today, Veterans Day, is a befitting day to pay tribute to Latino men and women whom have proudly served in our nation’s military.

Rodrigo Garcia is the Deputy Treasurer and Chief Investment Officer for the Illinois State Treasury. Rodrigo is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps with three tours overseas including in Iraq and Afghanistan. The opinions and comments expressed in this article are his own personal views and do not constitute the views of the Illinois State Treasury or the United States Marine Corps.