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Air Commando with herencia Hispana

  • Published
  • By Desiree Ann Montenegro
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the nation celebrates and recognizes the unforgettable contributions Hispanic and Latino Americans have made to the United States. Hispanic Heritage Month is a time for celebration, remembrance and recognition of unique aspects that make up the Hispanic culture and story.

Known as the "Great American Melting Pot", the U.S. population and culture is a result of decades of immigration and pursuit of the American dream. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce 2012 Census, 46 percent of the New Mexican population is of Hispanic or Latino Heritage; of those, 9.8 percent were foreign-born. Whether Costa Rican, El Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Honduran, Nicaraguan, Mexican, Chilean or Belizean, those of Hispanic heritage share at least two things in common: a rich culture and a resiliency towards obstacles most would crumble under.

One such individual is stationed right here at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. Most would walk by him and offer a quick hello or good afternoon, without knowing in the slightest his incredible family narrative: Senior Airman Jaime Escalante, 27th Special Operations Comptroller Squadron accounting technician, who was born in Mexico, but raised in the U.S. since he was 5 years old.

Like many, Escalante's family first came to the U.S. by crossing the American-Mexican Border through the Rio Grande, which is a trek that can have real-life consequences. A child of migrant workers, Escalante's family took whichever jobs they could to secure a better future for their family. The comfort of home and heart were not forgotten along the way, as the Escalante Family found comfort in local migrant communities.

"My father met several fellow immigrants with whom he formed strong bonds," said Escalante. "These bonds were not only important, but almost necessary in securing survival. My father would share living spaces, food and other basic necessities with others who were trying to get up on their feet in a new country."

This support system allowed Escalante's family to network and find promising job opportunities in other states. However, for a majority of that time, Escalante's family was geographically separated. His mother stayed behind until Escalante's father could secure a home and job to support his family in the states.

"I don't think females in an immigrant family get the recognition that they should," said Escalante. "While my father was risking his life trying to settle in the U.S., my mother stayed back to care for six children. She was the equivalent of a single mother for quite some time. She is a strong woman if I have ever met one."

Eventually settling in Arkansas City, Kan., Escalante joined the Air Force's Delayed Entry Program Nov. 18, 2008. He was the first in his family to have the honor of serving in the U.S. military.

"Hispanic Heritage Month reminds me of my roots," said Escalante. "More importantly, it reminds me of the endless sacrifices my parents made to give us the best opportunity for advancing. It's also a great reason to celebrate because we can throw some pretty mean parties."

Hispanic Americans continue to make a positive impact on the U.S. and on its military. For example, the Population Representation in the Military Services: Fiscal Year 2011 Summary Report suggests that more Hispanics are joining the services and the numbers continue to increase. The Hispanic culture, heritage and values are, and will always be part of America's identity and history.