Things That Matter

How these Latino Military Heroes Put Trump to Shame

¡¿Que se cree Donald Trump?! In extensive interviews with Michael D’Antonio, his biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter at Newsday, Trump likened his education at the ritzy New York Military Academy, military service. And although he has never served, Trump claims he has “more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military.” ? But has he ever done anything close to what these brave Latinos have done to protect our country and freedoms? Let’s take a moment to honor these heroes.

Fernando Luis García – Korean War

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Photo Credit: U.S. Marines

Birthplace: Utuado, Puerto Rico

Garcia threw himself on a grenade to save his fellow Marine after their unit was ambushed. He was the first Puerto Rican to receive a Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor Awarded: Sept. 5, 1952

Mike Pena – Korean War

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Photo Credit: U.S. Army

Birthplace: Corpus Christi, Texas

Realizing that his unit’s ammunition was low, Pena told his men to retreat. He spent the entire night single-handedly keeping the enemy at bay before he was killed.

Medal of Honor Awarded: March 18, 2014

Carlos Lozada – Vietnam War

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Photo Credit: U.S. Marines

Birthplace: Caguas, Puerto Rico

Realizing he was the last line of defense, Lozada provided cover for soldiers after their unit was attacked. He killed at least 20 North Vietnamese soldiers before being fatally wounded.

Medal of Honor Awarded: Nov. 20, 1967

Eurípides Rubio – Vietnam War

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Photo Credit: U.S. Army

Birthplace: Ponce, Puerto Rico

Rubio handed out ammunition, took over for a fallen machine gun operator and used a smoke grenade to show air support the location of the enemy during an ambush. Rubio died in action.

Medal of Honor Awarded: Nov. 8, 1966

Humbert Roque Versace – Vietnam War

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Photo Credit: U.S. Army

Birthplace: Honolulu, Hawaii

Versace refused to talk after being captured by the Viet Cong, who then executed him. Prisoners said the last thing they heard from Versace was him singing “God Bless America.”

Medal of Honor Awarded: July 8, 2002

José Jiménez – Vietnam War

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Photo Credit: U.S. Marines

Birthplace: Mexico City

Jiménez took on the enemy alone, destroying enemy weapons and troops before being fatally wounded.

Medal of Honor Awarded: Aug. 28, 1969

Héctor Santiago-Colón – Vietnam War

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Photo Credit: U.S. Army

Birthplace: Salina, Puerto Rico

Santiago-Colón spotted a grenade that had been thrown at his unit during a late-night battle. He grabbed the grenade, put it into his shirt and turned away from his unit, taking the full impact of the blast.

Medal of Honor Awarded: June 28, 1968

Ambrosio Guillen – Korean War

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Photo Credit: U.S. Marines

Birthplace: La Junta, Colorado

Guillen’s unit was pinned down by two enemy platoons, so he deliberately exposed himself to enemy fire to help injured soldiers. After leading his unit to victory, Guillen died of his injuries.

Medal of Honor Awarded: August 18, 1954

Marcario García – World War II

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Birthplace: Villa de Castano, Mexico

García single-handedly killed six enemy troops and captured four German prisoners. García was injured by bullets and grenade shrapnel during his charge.

Medal of Honor Awarded: Nov. 27, 1944

America’s First Latina Fighter Pilot Was Rejected Twice Before The U.S. Air Force Accepted Her

Culture

America’s First Latina Fighter Pilot Was Rejected Twice Before The U.S. Air Force Accepted Her

airandspace.si.edu

Before Olga E. Custodio became the first Latina Air Force pilot, she faced a slew of rejections in life for being a Puerto Rican woman. Even though she was an enrolled college student at just 16 years old, her application to join ROTC was rejected because she was a woman. She always knew she wanted to become a pilot, and worked in aviation in any capacity she could–even in accounting for Puerto Rico’s International Airline. She applied to the U.S. Air force three times before she was accepted.

When she finally was accepted into the training program, Custodio’s father, a military vet, called the governor of Puerto Rico himself to tell him the news.

Olga E. Custodio’s family moved so often, she went to schools in Taiwan, Iran, and Paraguay.

Credit: @JLANSolutions / Twitter

Her father was a sergeant in the United States Army, which meant that Custodio grew up as a ‘military brat.’ The whole family would relocate as her father was assigned to different military stations around the world. “I started kindergarten and 1st grade in Taiwan,” Custodio told Fox News Latino. “From there we moved to New Jersey, followed by a move to Iran then Paraguay before my father retired. I saw the world before I was 15 years old. I liked the feeling of being in the air.”

Custodio was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and their family returned to the island when she was 15 years old. She graduated high school a year later.

Credit: @flyLAXairport / Twitter

She was immediately accepted into the University of Puerto Rico, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree at a young age. She applied to join the ROTC program at the University but was rejected for being a woman. Only men were admitted into the program at the time. 

“Why aren’t the women leading?” Custodio asked herself at every job before entering the military.

Credit: @TheFogHornNews / Twitter

She worked a lot of different jobs, and at every one of them, she told the Daily Mail, “I always saw men in the leadership roles. I asked myself: “Why aren’t the women leading? I could lead that!” She met her now-husband, Edward Custodio, and had two children. 

Custodio applied to become an Air Force officer three times before she was accepted.

Credit: Olga Custodio / Facebook

“When my daughter was three years old, I had all the DoD regulations available to me,” Custodio told Fox. “I knew the rules and applied to be an officer for the third time.” Custodio brought her husband and marched into the Headquarters for the Air Force Military Personnel Center to apply to the U.S. Air Force Officer Training School. She was accepted. There, she talked to a sergeant who asked her to name three career choices she would like to have for herself. “I told him I would be a pilot, a pilot and a pilot,” she told Fox.

It took her two years of training to become the first Latina to complete the U.S. Air Force military pilot training program.

Credit: @JMA_Solutions / Twitter

She first had to complete the Flight Screening Pilot Officer Training program before she could enter the Officer Training School. There, she was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Finally, that qualified her for Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas. A year later, she graduated, making her the first Latina to complete the U.S. Air Force military pilot training.

Her first assignment was also historic–she was the first female flight instructor at her base.

Credit: @NATCA / Twitter

At that base, she trained others to fly the Northrop T-38 Talon, which is a two-seat supersonic jet trainer. Custodio was actually awarded an Aviation Safety Award during her time as an instructor after she safely landed a plane that had been compromised after a bird flew into the jet’s engine during bad weather. 

Custodio served our country for 23 years and 10 months before retiring.

Credit: @SISOKlahoma / Twitter

She retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in October 2003, after spending the bulk of her career teaching others how to be effective Air Force pilots. Today, she says she flies for free and for fun. When her friends who own planes ask her to take them for a ride, she happily accepts.

“My mantra is ‘Querer es poder,'” she said.

Credit: @iamalatinogreek / Twitter

“I believe everyone has the potential to do it. They just have to believe in themselves enough to actually do it,” she tells Fox. She also said that she “was not out to prove anything.” She didn’t even know she was “the first anything.” She worked hard for herself and her family, and the accolades followed.

Today, she runs a documentary production company in San Antonio, Texas.

@BigDifference / Twitter

She is also the Vice President of the Hispanic Association of Aviation and Aerospace Professionals (HAAAP). The organization takes young Latinos in the San Antonio area into the cockpit and into control towers to offer more opportunities for growth in the field. Oh, and she also directs a Puerto Rican folk dance group, just for fun.

READ: The First Latina In Space Wants To Use Her Experience To Produce More STEM Graduates

Trump Moves To End Automatic Citizenship For Some Military Families Based Overseas, Here’s Why This Matters

Things That Matter

Trump Moves To End Automatic Citizenship For Some Military Families Based Overseas, Here’s Why This Matters

Sara Wong / Unsplash

There is no denying that the thorniest issues in Donald J. Trump’s presidency has been migration and citizenship. Whether it involves the Dream Act, detention centers in the border or issues of citizenship, the Trump administration seems to act like a severe judge who decides who “deserves” to be an American or call the United States home. 

The president has recently been vocal about the possibility of ending birthright citizenship, meaning that a baby will need more than just being born in the United States to be an American if their parents don’t have their paper in order. So when a recent change in citizenship policies came into effect, people saw it as a sign of worse things to come. From now on, citizenship is not guaranteed to the offspring of military personnel who are stationed overseas. Critics worry that this could be a slippery slope leading to the much feared end to birthright citizenship, a move that would redefine the social and ethical construct of the United States. 

Let’s get some background info first. The US Army has a long tradition of overseas deployments.

Credit: Instagram. @USARMYEUROPE

The United States Army has participated in two world wars and been involved in other international conflicts. It also has a strong presence in the five continents. Many of the servicemen and servicewomen deployed overseas have families with them, or form families with partners from the host country (perhaps what makes Trump officials queasy). 

You could populate a small city with the amount of US military personnel living overseas in 177 countries.

Credit: us-personnel-chart-military (1). Digital image. Visualcapitalist.com

The United States has a strong military presence in the world, particularly in Europe and Asia. Japan and South Korea in particular host over 50,000 United States troops. This means that there are cultural and personal exchanges happening every single day, which is common in this day and age of globalization. 

So what does the policy change actually mean? The number of affected individuals is low, but the consequences could be dire. 

Credit: Instagram. @USARMYEUROPE

The policy change only affects a handful of individuals, but could set a precedent for harsher and more defining moves. The New York Times explains the mechanics of the policy: “[it] would make some parents serving abroad who adopted children or who had spent limited time in the United States apply for citizenship for children not born on American soil. Immigration lawyers and military groups predicted that for those families, citizenship would have to come through an onerous, expensive application process — if it comes at all”. According to experts, the policy could affect 100 families. Each year there are about 25 applications. 

Democrats blasted the move, claiming that it is a disservice to the military.

Credit: Twitter. @RepGilCisneros

Gil Cisneros, Representative of California’s 39th Congressional District serves on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC), so his opinion has a fair amount of weight in Washington. He is totally opposed to the new policy and has been very combative on social media. He is also a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Will this backfire on the Trump administration come election time?

Veteran policymakers are also appalled.

Credit: Twitter. @RepBarbarLee

African-American Barbara Lee, U.S. Representative for California’s 13th congressional district since 1998, has gone even farther and claimed that the decision is triggered by a racist worldview. Nancy Pelosi also expressed her discontent, tweeting: “America’s servicemembers & diplomats abroad are among our nation’s best, yet @realDonaldTrump is launching an attack on their families, putting in doubt the citizenship of their children born overseas. This shameful policy must be reversed immediately”. The drums of political war are beating. 

The hashtag #TrumpHatesMilitaryFamilies became a trending topic.

Credit: Twitter. @grantstern

The move is rather symbolic and exacerbates tensions that already existed between the military and the Trump administration. Jeremy Buttler, the chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told The New York Times: “By targeting the citizenship of children, the administration has made service abroad — an already intense, stressful environment — even more difficult for military families to navigate. It’s unclear what issue this policy is trying to solve, and why it’s going into effect imminently without a plan for education, outreach and support for those it affects”.

So close to election time, #TrumpHatesMilitaryFamilies punctures one of the GOP’s most favorable demographics.

Credit: Twitter. @thosemuckrakers

It is no secret that the GOP is generally favored by members of the military when it comes to elections. Veterans in particular tend to vote Republican. In 2016, Donald Trump received 61% of  the veteran vote. Could moves like this change that tendency?

Others have called out the presidency for a pattern of singling out particular communities.

Credit: Twitter. @in_pubs

Some Twitter users are connecting this policy change to other shifts in immigration policies, particularly the so-called “Muslim ban”. This veteran will simply not have it. Officials have played down the criticism, arguing that the change just requires different paperwork and that it does not affect birthright citizenship.

But opposing voices are adding up. Trend News Agency reports Andy Blevins, executive director of the Modern Military Association of America, which advocates for gay and lesbian service members, as saying: “Military members already have enough to deal with, and the last thing that they should have to do when stationed overseas is go through hoops to ensure their children are U.S. citizens”.