Lt. Col. Marisol Chalas speaks during the virtual Hispanic Heritage Month observance. Screenshot by Emily Mihalik

 

Joint base celebrates Hispanic heritage, culture

On Friday, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month during a virtual observance.

The national theme for this year’s observance is “Esperanza: A celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope” captures that spirit and celebrates the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the nation and military.

Each year Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America, said Col. David Bowling, the JBM-HH commander.

“This observance began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under then President Lyndon Johnson and was later expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15,” explained Bowling. “Sept. 15 is significant as it is the anniversary of independence for the Latin America countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico celebrates its independence Sept. 16 with Chile celebrating theirs Sept. 18. Columbus Day, also known as the Dia de la Raza in Mexico, is Oct. 12 and falls within this 30-day period.”

The guest speaker for the virtual observance was Lt. Col. Marisol Chalas, the branch chief of Reserve schools at U.S. Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky. She is also the first Latina National Guard Black Hawk pilot.

Chalas said tributes such as the National Hispanic Heritage Month are an excellent opportunity to pause and reflect on shared history as Americans and celebrate the rich mosaic of people and cultures who continue to work together to build and strengthen the country’s armed forces and nation.

“Through hard work, devotion to Family, loyalty to community and country, Hispanic Americans pursue the American dream and contribute to the strength, diversity and protection of our nation,” she said. “Hispanic Americans have been breaking barriers and making history for many decades. Hispanic Americans have worked their way to the top many have started their businesses and have risen from poverty to accomplish great things. Hispanic Americans are physicians, Nobel Peace Prize winners, actors, fashion designers, athletes, politicians, artists, writers, lawyers, doctors, service members and pioneers in their field. Countless trailblazers had to make tough decisions to leave their homeland to pursue the American dream.”

She added that many left their families behind, a story that is true for her family. Chalas parents left the Dominican Republic and moved to Massachusetts without friends or family members. She said it was two years before she saw her parents again, along with a new addition to the family — a baby sister.

“I can assure you my parents never regretted their decision to move to the U. S.,

although they like other immigrants before them, faced many challenges,” said Chalas.      “Their challenges were compounded because they didn’t know many people in the town they know called home (in) Massachusetts. Moreover, they didn’t speak English or understand the American culture. In retrospect, I cannot imagine the pain and loneliness they must have felt leaving their kids and loved one behind to start a new family and a new life, not knowing what the future had in store or when they would be reunited with their daughters.”

Chalas pointed out that it was the strong work ethic that her parents instilled in her and her siblings as being the catalyst to achieve her goals in the military.

“Early on, Mom and Dad instilled in us the importance of having a solid work ethic, determination and courage,” she said. “They taught us to never give up, take pride in whatever job we were doing at the time.”

Before Chalas closed, she urged everyone to embrace diversity, celebrate all nationalities and find commonalities and not differences.

“Have fun, and stay positive always,” Chalas said. “A positive attitude will take you one-half the distance. Do the best job you can, no matter the position. Seek the tough jobs, broaden your skills and attributes, take those challenging assignments, work productively every day, learn your craft well, be a team player 24/7, keep yourself mentally, physically and spiritually fit, build relationships and sustain them. Remember the Golden Rule — dignity and respect to all. We are all public servants, be proud, yet humble always.”

Pentagram editor Catrina Francis can be reached at

catrina.s.francis2.civ@mail.mil.

By Catrina Francis

Pentagram Editor