By: Daniel L. Muñoz
The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York, Sept. 11, 2001 was still a burning memory in my mind as I walked down the long pier at the U.S. Naval Station towards the U.S.S. Anchorage (LSD-36). The ship looked awesome the closer I got to it.
I had originally been invited to share the meaning of "Hispanic Heritage Month", on Sept. 14, 2001 with the crew. The event, however, was canceled abruptly by the Commanding Officer of the USS Anchorage as the word of the terrorist attack unfolded; the ship was placed on Threatcon DELTA, as were all other military forces.
Our world had gone crazy and we knew naught what the outcome would be from the destruction of the World Trade Center Twin Towers by terrorists. Fourteen days later on Sept. 25, 2001, I received the following E-Mail from the USS Anchorage:
. . ."Are you still available to come to our Hispanic Heritage luncheon on Friday? We have decided to do this because we feel its time to celebrate and continue on with our lives. It has been a trying time for all of us and now things need to change."
Ensign Milagros Rivera, a resident of New York City escorted me to the huge Cargo Deck which normally houses Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) which can transport equipment, personnel, and weapons to the beach under attack. It can transport 155mm Howitzers, Light Armored Vehicles, 25mm guns, Humvees, 5 ton trucks, and ferry a Marine Landing Force of 25 Officers, 12 Non Commissioned Officers (NCO's), and 300 noncom enlisted men.
Now, there were approximately 300 enlisted sailors. Chief Petty Officers and Officers gathered in the mid-ship Cargo Deck waiting for the program to begin. They were in for a treat, the Captain, Commander Kent V. Flowers, kick-ed off the program with an awards ceremony. Later there would be Latino foods catered by El Indio Mexican Restaurant and Andres Cuban Restaurant. The Hispanic food went well with all, especially to the 10 percent of the crew that were Hispanos! The shipboard staff made a large decorated cake and the crew made quick work of it!
But the best was yet to come, the Keynote speaker was the Publisher of La Prensa San Diego with the rousing closure of " Salsa Dancers" to remind the sailors what they were protecting back home! Needless to say being sandwiched in between platanos, enchiladas, frijoles, pollo a la Plancha and Salsa dancers was a hard act to follow.....But I tried.
I looked out and saw the many young faces starring up at me. . . I wondered what could I say that would make them proud to be Hispanics while at the same time make them proud of being Americans. . . I looked deep into my soul and began to speak....
There are many in this country who would consider you as foreigners, or worse, illegal aliens. They speak in ignorance which is the reason that the President of this nation chose to select the period of Sept. 15 to Oct. 12 to speak out and reflect and call to mind the role and contribution of the peoples of Hispanic, Latino, and Indigenous roots and the great mestisaje that erupted out of LA CONQUISTA of the continent that was named America.
In all of us that are a result of the conquest there is a great inherited element within us that has defined us as "Guerreros" Warriors! Our Spanish forefathers noted in the Aztecs, Toltecs, in the Incas, the Mayas in fact they noted the courage to stand up against insurmountable odds. They said `Son Guerreros!' You, here today, have that Guerrero courage inherited from your indigenous roots and strength with the blood of the Iberian warriors whose blood was co-mingled with the Arab conquerors of the Iberian peninsula who ruled Spain for over 800 years.
Those warrior elements come forth in North America during the War of Independence from England. When the colonist decided to break away from England they did so in the heat of anger. Only one third of the colonist revolted against the Crown. One third went Royalist (mostly from the South) and one third didn't want any thing to do with the bloody mess! The Colonist were outgunned, outfought, and were close to total defeat until George Washington implored the Continental Congress to beg help from the Kings of Spain and France. Both Kings were related through the House of Bourbon. Within a few months Spain and France declared war against England (they had a few scores to settle with the Brits).
The Caribbean Sea was not called the Spanish Main for nothing. The Spaniards ruled the Spainish Main, all the islands and most of the American Continent. Within weeks Spanish Galleons manned by Mestizos, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Indigenous peoples from North, middle and South American attacked the English Fleets. Within months they had sunk most of the English fleet and closed down all the ports that were opened to the British fleet. The ability to maintain their large armies disappeared. It was Spanish Admirals combined with the manpower from all the Spanish colonies that made it possible to win the War for Independence.
Your ancestors have been in every war that the United States has been involved in from the War of Independence, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, to the `Police Actions of Korea, Vietnam, and the Desert Storm in Iraq. In each one of those battles Americans whose origins can be traced to North, middle and South America were involved defending THEIR COUNTRY. It isn't by chance that Hispanics, Latinos, Mestizo, Indigenous, Chicanos in a word YOUR RAZA have been awarded more Medal of Honors (percentage wise) than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States of America!
Soon you sailors on board the USS Anchorage will become involved in another war or police action . . .I wish you well and remember who you are GUEREROS- Warriors of the 21st century! My you have following seas and may God be with you and your shipmates.