We wish all our USCG brothers and sisters a happy 231st birthday. Please take a moment to check out the tribute video below from the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, as well as the birthday post from the Council on Foreign Relations webpage which contains the history and some recommended reading. Lastly, the Coast Guard Historian has a page dedicated to the history of Hispanic Americans in the U.S. Coast Guard. Thank you for 231 years of service to the nation, Semper Paratus!!
Naval archives tell the stories of the first visit to South America by an American President. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) visited Cartagena, Colombia on July 10, 1934, while riding the USS Houston (CA-30). The visit was a short stop on a working vacation that began at the beginning of the month in Annapolis, Maryland. FDR’s destination was Portland, Oregon, after a short visit to Hawaii. The trip, close to 12,000 nautical miles, was one of a few unique cruises for the Houston, a ship that had joined the Fleet in 1930. Her entryway was as a light cruiser, and soon after she was reclassified as a heavy cruiser. Little did she know that just a few years after becoming the flagship of the United States Fleet, she was going to be involved in serious World War II battles. Houston, known as “The Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast,” and her crew fought valiantly during the Battle of Makassar Strait. While ordered to leave the area, she was sunk, along with the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth, during the Battle of Sunda Strait. Out of the crew of 1,082 Sailors, only 366 survivors became POWs and endured cruel physical treatment according to records of the U.S. Naval Institute.
A light cruiser that took FDR for the first time to South America, Houston fought courageously and didn’t turn her back when tested by fire. Similarly, our service in the Naval Services provides both, enlisted and officers, with the opportunity to serve in times of peace and in times of war, showing courage and commitment when matters most. Our Latino heritage is one of the greatest assets available in these fights. The efforts to do and be our best is intrinsically ingrained in our spirits. The sense of family and comradery opens doors to cohesive and stronger teams. Our imaginative and creative thinking brings fresh looks and new considerations to old dilemmas. Houston fought hard and to the end. As we remember the first presidential visit to South America 87 years ago, may we continue to renew the spirit of Houston and her crew projected in the words of FDR when the “Houston Volunteers” responded to the call to replace the lost crew of the Houston: “Our enemies have given us the chance to prove that there will be another USS Houston, and yet another USS Houston if that becomes necessary, and still another USS Houston as long as American ideals are in jeopardy”
Today, as we take time to celebrate July 4, 2021, we must pay homage, on such an auspicious occasion, to those who keep the American Experiment alive: Our military, law enforcement, journalists, members of all institutions of government/civil society, and most importantly everyday citizens that step forward when needed. In these preceding years our country has been tested by internal strife, an erosion of trust, and a pandemic.
As it has never been in the past, it is not a forgone conclusion that we will overcome the present crisis. All patriots can do is defend our nation at moments of crisis. Having the honor of taking a military oath to our Constitution, I feel it appropriate to share a part of it: "I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;…" All patriots should envision their name in that blank space. That blank space is reserved for each of us.
As patriots did at the inception of our nation, that July 4th in Philadelphia, we are all called on to do our part to protect this union and work towards making it a ―more perfect place for all of us.
In the words of President Ronald Reagan:
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
As we enjoy our holiday we should evaluate how we can be of service to perfecting our union and protecting our Constitution. History will not look kindly upon the generation that let’s freedom fade from this American Experiment.
Latinos have played an important role in the defense of this nation from its inception. Scholars Raoul Lowery Contreras and Frank D. Gomez gave us a list of some of the contributions made on the battlefield by
- Troops from Mexico, Cuba and Spain totaled 8,000 during the revolutionary war. This amount of troops equaled those of France and was in addition to the material support provided.
- More than 20,000 Hispanics served in the Civil War from private to general and admiral, and Hispanics have continued to distinguish themselves serving in America’s armed forces. The wartime honor roll includes:
- Boxer Rebellion — Marine Pvt. France Silva became the first Mexican-American to be awarded a Medal of Honor.
- World War I — Army Pvt. David B. Barkeley Cantu from Texas was awarded a Medal of Honor posthumously; the Army did not know he was Mexican-American until decades later. Army Private Marcelino Serna, born in Mexico and living illegally in the United States, was the first Mexican to earn the Distinguished Service Cross. He was also Texas’ most decorated veteran of the war.
- World War II – Seventeen Hispanics were awarded the Medal of Honor including the war’s second most decorated fighting man, Texan Cleto Rodriguez, the most decorated fighting Mexican-American ever. Two of those honored were actually Mexican citizens.
- Korean War – Fifteen Hispanics were awarded the Medal of Honor, including 10 Mexican-Americans and five Puerto Ricans.
- Vietnam — Twenty-two Hispanics, including four Puerto Ricans, three Mexican citizens and 15 Mexican-Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor.
Que Viva La Independencia!!
Throughout June 1918, the Marine Corps fought along with Allied forces in the Battle of Belleau Wood. This battle was a strategic win for the Allies during World War I as it injected new strength to the fight, stopped the German advance, and increased the levels of confidence and experience in our troops. The toughness and resilience demonstrated by our Marines led to the title of Teufelshunde or “Devil Dogs.” The intentional pursuit of mental, physical, spiritual, and social toughness was tangible among those fighting this battle. When Allied forces were ready to call defeat, Capt. Lloyd Williams -company commander of the 51st Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, and graduate of Virginia Tech-, said, “Retreat, Hell! We just got here!” Capt. Williams fought intensely with his Marines and died a few days later. Wounded in battle, he told the docs, “Don’t bother with me. Take care of my good men.” In the face of difficulties, toughness keeps us relentless, resilient, and focus on the mission.
June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month . PTSD is a mental health condition that develops in some individuals that have been exposed to or experienced a life-threatening event. Such events can be combat, natural disasters (such as fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and more), accidents, or sexual or physical assault. Statistics indicate that 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their lives. Even with all the public discourse and the prevalence of people developing this condition, the number of people seeking treatment is limited. One sign of toughness is the ability to ask for help when needed. Increased toughness comes we build interdependence, working together to establish cohesiveness and support to one another.
As we celebrate toughness in the memory of the 103rd anniversary of the Battle of Belleau Wood, let us take time to keep an eye on ourselves and others on our united fight against PTSD.
For more info please visit the US Department of Veteran Affair's National Center for PTSD page.
We come to the end of the month of May, a month filled with observances in honor of Service Members and their families: Military Spouse Appreciation Day, Military Appreciation Month, and Memorial Day among others. All these expressions of intense appreciation are opportunities to exercise our humility, a value that to some is opposed to our military nature and drive while recognized by many leaders as a valuable attribute in professional development. Instilling humility, as a core attribute, increases the ability to work as a team, recognizes our limitations, and considers options from the perspective of the most junior to the most senior in the team. As we take time to reflect on our fallen heroes this Memorial Day, I pray we may recognize in humbleness their contributions to our nation and proudly celebrate their lives with appreciation and gratitude. Learning to live our lives knowing their sacrifices is the energizing force that keeps us committed to our cause. That was the energy that kept our naval forces ready to engage in the Pacific 79 years ago in the Battle of Midway. Only six months after the Pearl Harbor attack, the U.S. Navy turned the tide in the Pacific. The memory of the 2,403 U.S. personnel killed and the 19 U.S. Navy ships destroyed or damaged during the Pearl Harbor attack provided the vision and commitment to our nation to turn the page during this crucial time in World War II.