Hispanic Heritage Month and Latino Americans’ long-standing History of Military Service

Dr. Hector P. García: “a man who in the space of one week delivers twenty babies, twenty speeches, and twenty thousand votes.”

Today’s #HispanicHeritageMonth post to raise awareness of Latino Americans’ contributions and longstanding history of #military service honors a man whose name is my answer to “Who do you wish you could bring back to life so that you could enjoy conversation and dinner together?”

His name is Hector García…Dr. Hector García…the first Mexican American ever to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. An adviser to Presidents, a medical doctor, soldier/military officer and political activist for Latino veterans’ civil rights who activated thousands to the polls to participate in our American democratic processes…

Wondering where MY intense political activism comes from? I’ve studied this man’s life…His is a story so rich, you’ll need hours to even begin to appreciate him. So let me help  you start.

For me, I admire most that he hitchhiked 30 miles, each way, to college, to get his education. Share THAT with any American kid complaining about getting to school!

I admire how he suffered blatant discrimination during WWII (entering the military with M.D. after his name he should’ve immediately been commissioned as an officer but that’s NOT what happened because “García”)

Photo from From the UTMB Early Years page

He persevered, served, rose to the rank of Major in the Army and became a highly – decorated officer serving in Europe during WWII. After the war, after beginning his medical practice and witnessing the social injustice of Mexican-American veterans living in poverty, García created the American GI Forum, a  veterans’ rights organization (that exists to this day) so that these veterans too could receive the benefits to which they were entitled.

An immediate secondary goal of AGIF became to mobilize the Mexican-American community at large, because Dr. García understood that when one family member goes to war, the entire family is forced into service. AGIF quickly evolved into a powerful civil rights organization after the discriminatory Longoria Incident was resolved due to García’s leadership and activism. You’ll see the Longoria Incident in the short PBS video below.

I’m providing three resources for you below:

1. The video clip from the PBS Latino Americans miniseries (inspired by Ray Suarez ‘s book of same title)

2. UT Medical School’s site that honors Dr. Garcia’s extraordinary life and achievements, including the early years.

3. A great resource page from Humanities Texas where I found that fabulous quote at the top about Dr. García: “a man who in the space of one week delivers twenty babies, twenty speeches, and twenty thousand votes.”

The latter happily contains links to a documentary about Dr. García’s life, his foundation, where you can find his papers, a bibliography and so much more. It’s a treasure trove. I hope you use it to inspire young people as you celebrate #HispanicHeritageMonth this month, next year during HHM and every day of the year.

This entry was posted in Hispanic Heritage, Military Community. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *