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National Hispanic Heritage Month

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, South Carolina -- During National Hispanic Heritage Month we recognize the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate the group's heritage and culture. Hispanics have had a profound and positive influence on our country through their strong commitment to family, faith, hard work, and service. They have enhanced and shaped our national character with centuries-old traditions that reflect the multiethnic and multicultural customs of their community.

In September 1968, Congress authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim National Hispanic Heritage Week, observed during the week that included Sept. 15 and Sept. 16. The observance was expanded in 1989 by Congress to a month long celebration (Sept. 15 - Oct. 15). America celebrates the culture and traditions of those who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Sept. 15 was chosen as the starting point for the celebration because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively.

According to Lieutenant Commander Nate Christensen, a Department of Defense spokesman, Hispanics currently comprise 11.4 percent of the active-duty military forces (more than 157,000 people). In 2011, 16.9 percent of all new recruits were Hispanic. Though this shows Hispanics are actually underrepresented in the number of new U.S. military accessions, this does represent a three percent increase since 2005. That number can only rise given that many of the immigration reform proposals include a path to citizenship after serving in the military. Moreover, forty-four men of Hispanic heritage have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Of the forty-four Medals of Honor presented to Hispanics, two were presented to members of the United States Navy, thirteen to members of the United States Marine Corps and twenty-nine to members of the United States Army. Twenty-five Medals of Honor were presented posthumously.