Not only are the days from now through Oct. 15 a time of celebration of culture and heritage of the Hispanic community for Hispanic Heritage Month, but they’re also one of appreciation and recognition.
Since 1977, there has been an upward trend of Hispanic enlistment in the United States Armed Forces.
The first significant increase in Hispanic enlistment was in 1944 during World War II. The United States Army Air Forces sent Puerto Rican aviators to train with the 99th Fighter Squadron of the Tuskegee Airmen, who aided in the successful downing of 109 enemy aircraft by the end of the war.
Among the most prominent Hispanics in United States military history was Lt. Gen. Elwood R. “Pete” Quesada, who began his service in the Army Air Corps in September 1924. The foundation of his career was his service as a flying cadet, where he worked to become part of the development of air-to-air refueling in 1929.
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Quesada went to Tampa, Fla., as commanding general of the Third Air Force on March 1, 1946. This group would become Tactical Air Command.
As head of TAC, he was promoted to lieutenant general in October 1947 and in November 1948 became special assistant for reserve forces at Headquarters U.S. Air Force.
Quesada continued his “excellence in all we do” mentality when in command under the 9th AF. Here he contributed critical and innovative concepts to close air support of ground forces. In 1951, he retired and continued in service as the Special Adviser for Aviation to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and even held a seat on American Airline’s board of directors.
His service was recognized through numerous decorations and medals.
He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in 1993, and is now appreciated throughout this month of Hispanic Heritage.