By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2003 Vowing to continue working to increase Hispanic representation throughout his department, Secretary of Defense praised the contributions of Hispanic Americans in a speech at the Pentagon.
Rumsfeld told Hispanic leaders from academia, business and the Defense Department, as well as representatives of national Hispanic organizations, that Hispanics have played a vital role “in every war and every battle our country has fought from the American Revolution to Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
The Defense Department and the Reserve Forces Policy Board sponsored the session during the first week of Hispanic Heritage Month to commemorate Hispanic achievements and explore ways to increase Hispanic representation within the department.
Rumsfeld applauded the group’s efforts and the many contributions Hispanics historically have made to the country’s defense and to the strength of the United States and its military forces. He noted that 39 Hispanic service members have earned the nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor many, he said, paying “the ultimate price” in the process.
Hispanic Americans continue to make a vital contribution toward the nation’s defense, Rumsfeld said, including the global war on terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere around the world. He pointed toward an important Hispanic role model in that effort, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq.
Rumsfeld said it is “critically important” that the Defense Department does a better job of tapping into the talents of its growing Hispanic force.
Just back from a trip to Southwest Asia where he met many of the deployed U.S. troops, Rumsfeld said he was struck as he read the nametags on their uniforms.
“Name after name is a Hispanic name,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing… being able to look (these troops) in the eye and thank them and tell them how important it is what they’re doing for their country.”
He said these troops “are helping bring liberty to the oppressed” and creating a better world for the next generation, which he said will “no longer have to be fearful and terrorized.”
The nation’s Hispanic service members, he said, with their proven “devotion to faith, the community and the country” are critical to achieving that goal.
Rumsfeld said increasing the opportunities for Hispanic men and women at senior levels within the Defense Department also would send a strong message within and outside the ranks that the department represents the full spectrum of American society.
“Every minority success story is a success story for the United States of America,” he said.