A tribute to Hispanic heritage

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Andre Olaciregui
  • 66th Medical Squadron
As a Colombian and Hispanic American, I take pride in my heritage. With Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 observed as Hispanic Heritage Month, I think it's important that we take time to reflect on the Hispanic Airmen who have come before us and paved the way for us to be a part of this service.

Prior to my arrival here to Hanscom, I was stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and one of the things I enjoyed the most was having the National Museum of the United States Air Force in my back yard. I consistently found myself in awe and amazed of the accomplishments of the men and women of the Air Force who served before me.

January 2009, the museum opened up a new exhibit called Warrior Airmen. I found this exhibit to be unique due to the fact it represented our current mission. It tells history as it happens -- not years later. It's an exhibit that all Airmen providing support to the current conflict can relate to.

One Airman featured in this exhibit that personally impressed me was, then-Senior Master Sgt. Ramon Colon-Lopez, a pararescueman for the U.S. Air Force and a Hispanic American.

Soon after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Sergeant Colon-Lopez was tasked with a Combat Search and Rescue mission. The objective of this mission was to acquire and destroy high value targets involved in the attacks on the United States and its interests overseas. Because of his impressive career and leadership, Sergeant Colon-Lopez was given the task to provide security in Afghanistan and to protect Hamid Kharzai, the president of Afghanistan.

Again, in 2004, Sergeant Colon-Lopez was tasked with another critical mission in Afghanistan. He and his team were responsible for capturing a high value target that intelligence identified as a drug lord that was funding terrorism.

One of the more remarkable events in the career of Sergeant Colon-Lopez took place in Afghanistan in 2004. According to the exhibit, his team was on a mission when their helicopter was attacked and severely damaged. After landing, unfamiliar with the size of the attack, he led his team forward, engaging and eventually neutralizing the enemy. Due to his situational awareness and his swift, proficient actions, he was able to eliminate the threat posed to his team.

In doing so, Sergeant Colon-Lopez and his team killed two of the insurgents, captured ten and destroyed a multitude of rocket propelled grenades. Because of his actions, not only was the attack suppressed, but no one on his team was killed. Upon his return to the states, he was awarded the Air Force Combat Action medal -- the first enlisted Airman to be awarded this medal.

Hispanic Americans have a long history of heroic service in our armed forces and now-Chief Master Sergeant Colon-Lopez is an excellent example of this legacy. His actions epitomize the meaning of the "Airman's Creed" and provides an outstanding example for all Airmen to strive toward.

For more information on the accomplishments and history of Chief Colon-Lopez explore www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=13586&page=5.

I hope this commentary challenges all Airmen to engage and reflect not only on Hispanic heritage, but also United States Air Force heritage, regardless of the calendar date, and pay tribute to those that have made the Air Force what it is today.