Saluting Latina Veterans
By Marisa Rivera
In the spirit of deep gratitude, I would like to honor all the men and women who have served or are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces from the creation of this nation to the present day. We owe our freedom and liberty to all who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend this country.
The history of women in the armed forces began more than 220 years ago with the women who served during the American Revolution and continues through today. Women have played many roles in the military, but in the early days they worked more in the civilian fields of nursing, laundering, water bearers, mending clothing, and cooking. They prohibited women to fight in the combat field. During the American Civil War, there were a few women who cross-dressed as men in order to fight alongside in the battlefield with men. These prohibitions began to change during World War II, when the nation needed the contributions of all of its citizens, and it was not until last year, that the U.S. Department of Defense lifted the ban on women in combat.
Today, women, especially Latinas, have broken many records and barriers by moving through the ranks and making their careers in the military. Unfortunately, just like in the public and private sectors, progress and advancement into top leadership positions has been slow and limited.
When the military first began accepting women into its ranks in the early 20th century, Latinas joined the service. Latinas have served courageously; selflessly and with dedication in times of conflict and in times of peace, such as my dearest friend and colleague, Lieutenant Colonel Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch (Ret.). She joined the military at a time when a woman in the military was still a rarity. LTC Castillo Kickbusch (Ret.) has had an exemplary military career that lasted for over 22 years. While in the military, she broke barriers and set records to become the highest-ranking Latina in the Combat Support Field of the U.S. Army. In 1996, she was elected out of 26,000 candidates to assume a command post, which would put her on track for the rank of general officer. “I wanted to serve my country. I joined the U.S. Army because of my Dad. I come from a family of ten brothers and sisters. Out of the ten brothers and sisters, eight served in the military. My Dad use to tell us that the greatest honor was to serve your country, the country that provided us with so many opportunities,” she said. “I felt a sense of obligation and honor in serving my country,”
Latinos have served with distinction in the U.S. military for generations. Forty-three Latinos have won our nation’s highest award, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
We are in debt to all the men and women and Latina Veterans – I call them the Warriors of Peace and Democracy, who have opened the pathway for others to lead and become the “Jefas” and “Jefes” of the Military. As I was writing this article, I was boarding a five-hour Southwest Airlines flight cross-country and it reminded me of what we should all be ready to do at all times when we encounter America’s returning veterans and active service men and women. Southwest Airlines pays tribute to our military personnel by giving them a standing ovation when they disembark a plane. They also give priority boarding to active duty service men and women. I love Southwest Airlines!
Please join me in honoring and saluting all Veterans like my brother Master Sergeant Rafael Rivera (ret.) and the Latina Veterans, like LTC Castillo Kickbusch (Ret.) and the millions of Americans who have proudly served us by leaving a legacy and setting a great example of courage and leadership.
As women establish their own military traditions, daughters now follow in their mother’s footsteps and sisters serve together. The desire to serve our country and being patriotic has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with being a proud American! An American of Hispanic descent!
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