Be proud of your heritage

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Jacqueline Flores
  • 944th Operations Group, superintendent

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage month, let’s commemorate the contributions that unify our legacy to our great country’s rich history and our beloved Air Force’s mission success! Hispanic culture champions diversity and inclusion, as we are a multi-ethnic and multi-racial group. We have become stronger and more resilient as we faced adversity, and we will evoke all the hard work and sacrifice our ancestors overcame to give their children a better future.

For example, my parents left everything they knew behind; family, friends, tradition, and comfort. I am grateful that they endured much sacrifice and conquered many trials to give my siblings and me better opportunities. One of their challenges included my decision to enlist soon after high school. As a first generation American who didn’t know much about the military, I now realize that leaving home at 17 years of age took courage, especially for my parents. My family is very close-knit and over-protective, so it took quite a bit of coaxing for my parents to agree to sign me over for the active duty Army life. It was scarier for them than it was for me, but as I have learned through more than 20 years of military service, I had to get out of my comfort zone to grow and flourish.

I am not the only one who has left a cozy home and close-knit family to fight for our country’s freedom; most of you reading this have answered our nation’s call to serve as you overcome fears and learn to grow in every aspect of life. As dedicated service members, you make sacrifices and work hard to provide a better future for upcoming generations, and this strong legacy of love, honor, and service will continue to thrive amongst our ranks and our families. This proud legacy is what I hope to impart upon my children, my family, my community, and my Airmen.

I have come to realize how important it is to represent where we come from because it shows others that they can succeed, too. Still, achieving our goals takes dedication and discipline; we must realize that circumstances don’t have to be perfect for us to achieve our aspirations. You may have different challenges than others, but that doesn’t take away from your inherent power; it’s actually what makes your story special. I have been inspired by other strong Hispanic women who serve, such as the previous Air Force Reserve Command Chief, Ericka Kelly and our wing’s newest First Sergeant, Master Sgt. Perla Tapia. These resilient women have overcome glaring obstacles, yet have risen above life’s challenges to empower others. They have adopted a growth mindset, which tells them that even though something is difficult or at times seems impossible to overcome, they must continue to push through; and they succeed. If they can do it, so can you.

Interestingly, I believe success is not always about winning or getting your way; sometimes it’s about who you become through the process. We can learn through good and bad leadership, because we can grow from every experience and challenge the status quo. I have been blessed with transformational leaders who have empowered me, but I have also been challenged with other types of leaders, whom I learned from nevertheless. I served five regular active duty years in the Army, which was not my favorite experience… but I still gleaned from it. Now, I’m even more grateful for the privilege to serve with the Air Force for the past 15 years. I have learned that if I see someone else doing something I want to do, I can seek the training and experience, and be willing to meet challenges head on. For instance, I have improved at certain skills because I seek to expose myself to things that I once thought I could not do. It’s astonishing that though I have a dread of public speaking, I am now the 944th Fighter Wing Top 3 President running monthly meetings; leading weekly meetings for Luke Toastmasters as the Vice President of Public Relations; and traveling to facilitate SNCO Leadership Courses AFRC-wide. While this did not happen overnight, my willingness to get out of my comfort zone is what has made this growth possible.

Thus, I encourage you to remember that regardless of the situation you find yourself in right now, there is always the potential for greatness in your future. All you have to do is get after it! Fear not the challenges, but learn from them, and constantly seek ways to take care of Airmen, families, and community. Don’t let any type of adversity allow you to question your self-worth or demean your legacy. Instead, honor your heritage, and celebrate it. Continue your personal and professional development no matter what; and enjoy every success.

Indeed, be PROUD of your heritage as you seek new opportunities; become a lifelong learner; empower everyone around you to overcome their fears and challenges; and become inspirational to them. I truly believe you have this power in you, because if anyone else can do it, so can you!

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