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Honoring and remembering the Latina heroes of the past this Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a time of remembrance. The holiday honors and mourns those who died while serving in the military and celebrates their lives. This Memorial Day, we would like to shine a light on the historic contributions of Latinas in the U.S. military. 

Latinas in the military throughout History 

Records of Latinas in the U.S. military date back to the Civil War. The story of Loreta Janet Velazquez reads like a harrowing fiction novel. Born in Cuba, Loreta fought in the American Civil War by masquerading as a Confederate soldier under the name Lt. Harry T. Buford. She enlisted in 1860 without her soldier-husband’s knowledge and fought fearlessly at historic battles such as the Battles of Bull Run, Ball’s Bluff and Fort Donelson, and the Battle of Shiloh. Additionally she acted as a spy, donning both male and female disguises to remain undercover. 

Latinas in the military, Civil War,  Loreta Janeta Velazquez

The illustration depicts Loreta Janeta Velazquez and her alias, Lt. Harry T. Buford of the Confederate States Army. Source: Library of Congress.

Latinas also made significant contributions to the war effort during World War II. The creation of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps gave women the opportunity to work not only as nurses but also as members of the armed forces and many Latinas were specifically sought after for their fluency in Spanish to work in the areas of cryptology, correspondence, and communications. Many women also served as nurses, technical agents, mechanics, and telegram operators–managing crucial military communications during the war. 

Latinas in the military, World War II, WWII, Women's Army Auxiliary Corps

A poster for the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, 1941.[Source]

Women were undoubtedly vital to the military’s success during WWII both overseas and on the home-front where women took over the majority of labor and production in the workforce. The contributions of women can never be forgotten. 

You might be interested: Veteran’s Day: Veterans make great entrepreneurs

In the Military Today 

According to the U.S. Army’s historical site, approximately 400,000 to 500,000 Hispanic service members served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II, over 80,000 served in the Vietnam War, and approximately 20,000 participated in Operation Desert Shield/Storm. 

Today, the number of Latinos in the military is on the rise as the fastest growing population in the military. According to data from the Pew Research Center, the number of Latinos in active duty rose from 4% in the 1980s to 12% in 2015 and as of a 2019 report conducted by the Congressional Service Review, Latinos now make up 16% of all active-duty military. 

However, despite these growing numbers, Latinos are still largely underrepresented in high ranking roles, according to an article published by USA Today which states that Latinos only make up about  8% of the officer corps and 2% of general/flag officers, which signals that there is still much work to be done in the area of representation and equal opportunity.  

Latinos and Latinas have contributed greatly to the military throughout history and we honor their contributions and remember those who have fallen this Memorial Day.

Women in Aviation Week

Women’s History Month Women of Aviation Worldwide Week

It’s Women of Aviation Worldwide Week, a global awareness week that promotes women’s advancement in the aerospace industry. It takes place annually during the week of March 8, which is the anniversary date of the world’s first female pilot license and International Women’s Day.

Graciela Tiscareno-Sato, a US Air Force Veteran

Graciela Tiscareno-Sato, a US Air Force Veteran

As in many other industries, women representation in aviation is grim; only 6 percent of pilots are female, while females account for just 2 percent of all aircraft mechanics. Of the few Latinas in this profession, Graciela Tiscareño-Sato is a highly decorated decorated and inspiring military US Air Force veteran, accomplished entrepreneur and children’s book author.  As a sought after speaker of innovation and entrepreneurialism at universities, events, webinars and conferences, she now shares her expertise and knowledge across the globe.

Aviation career

Daughter of Mexican immigrants, after graduating as a distinguished student from Berkeley University of California, she joined the Air Force, achieving her Undergraduate Navigator Training in Sacramento. The only female in her class, she graduated in the top 15 percent of 25 students.

 

Women of Aviation Week

Graciela Tiscareno-Sato and her parents at her commissioning

Her Air Force deployments included Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Korea, Singapore, Hawaii, Okinawa and Japan, clocking over 1,000 flying hours across her ten years in the military.

Her key Air Force achievements included enforcing the No Fly Zone after Operation Desert Storm, which earned her a high status Air Medal award while protecting Iraqi civilians. Graciela was one of only a handful of women in Vicenza, Italy serving on the NATO Battlestaff. She also led a team of technicians to deter narcotics activities in Ecuador for the US Embassy. She was then promoted to wing contingency planning officer, after working as an instructor and navigator.

For her achievements, she was awarded the title of Woman Military Veteran Leader Champion of Change in March 2014 from The White House.

Entrepreneur

Ms. Tiscareño-Sato is not just a highly-decorated military veteran but also an accomplished entrepreneur. After obtaining her a Master’s in International Management from Whitworth University in Washington DC, she founded Gracefully Global Group, a publishing firm that specializes in marketing communications.

Graciela Tiscareno-Sato with her awarded children's book

Graciela Tiscareno-Sato with her awarded children’s book

She’s been honored with LATINA Style Magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award and the National Business Women’s Week Award from the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation.

Graciela plays a key role in hosting the annual Silicon Valley Latino Leadership Summit each year at Stanford University, mentoring students to improve their levels of education and developing their careers. She is a bilingual STEM consultant for K-college educators serving diverse student populations.

Her book, Latinnovating: Green American Jobs and the Latinos Creating Them, has won five awards. This book emphasises the entrepreneurialism and innovation of Latinos in the rise of a sustainable, green economy. She’s also been published globally, featuring in Hispanic MBA, Environmental Leader, the New York Times, LATINA Style and the Huffington Post.

Children’s books

As a fluent speaker of both English and Spanish, Graciela has also published a bilingual bestselling children’s book called Good Night Captain Mama/Buenas Noches Capitán Mamá, which will be part of a series. This is the first of its kind in explaining to children why women serve in the military.

Graciela Tiscareno-Sato

Graciela and her son, who inspired the script for her book.

Graciela explains her inspiration: “The night before Veterans Day in 2009, my three year-old son and I had a bedtime conversation that my husband recorded because it was the first time our little man was seeing me in uniform. I was preparing to visit his preschool the following morning.”

“Immediately after our conversation, I wrote the first draft of what has become the first book in a bilingual, aviation travel adventure series, Good Night Captain Mama/ Buenas Noches Capitán Mamá.”

The book has won four awards including the “Best Educational Children’s Book – Bilingual” at the International Latino Book Awards in 2014. Her second book, a part of a series, will be released this year.

Graciela and her husband were blessed with three children, including a Braille-literate daughter with dual-sensory impairments. As such, Graciela is a forceful education advocate for children with special needs and other children who face low expectations.