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Walter Reed Bethesda Observes National Hispanic Heritage Month


By Bernard S. Little

WRNMMC Command Communications

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center observed National Hispanic Heritage Month during a ceremony Sept. 28 in the America Building piano lobby.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Jonathan Bolanos, a WRNMMC nephrologist, served as guest speaker during the observance. A native of Puerto Rico, Bolanos said growing up he never thought he would join the military. “I don’t come from a military family, but I would hear stories about [Puerto Rican] veterans who served in World War II and Vietnam. As a matter of fact, there’s a main avenue in Puerto Rico called ‘Avenida 65 de Infantería,’ which means 65th Infantry Avenue. These stories shaped the culture of my community and are an integral part of who I am today.”
The 65th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed “The Borinqueneers" from the original Taíno name of the island (Borinquen), is a Puerto Rican regiment of the U.S. Army. The regiment's motto is Honor et Fidelitas, Latin for Honor and Fidelity.
Bolanos said people have been shaped by their history and through centuries of social, cultural interpersonal interactions with others. “Native Americans, Indians from different Latin countries, Africans and others have merged to form the society we are today. This interaction between cultures and communities continues today, and it is part of who we are. America is us…you, me, those who were here before us, and those who will be here after we’ve gone. We are who we are because we’ve learned to coexist and learn from one another.
“This Hispanic community in this great nation has been pivotal in contributing to America’s greatness and progress,” Bolanos furthered. “Everyone has had a role, including the maids, farmer workers, doctors, members of Congress and Supreme Court justices. Great Hispanic men and women have helped build not only America into the glorious nation that it is today, but the world has also been influenced by the [Hispanic and Latino] presence, our contributions and our work. We will continue to do [this] as long as we’re here, and we’re not going anywhere,” he concluded.
National Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, recognizes the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the U.S. heritage and culture. The observance began and Hispanic Heritage Week with legislation sponsored by Rep. Edward R. Roybal and first proclaimed President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. It became a month-long commemoration when legislation sponsored by Rep. Esteban E. Torres was implemented by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 and became law on Aug. 17, 1988.
September 15 was chosen as the starting point for the observance because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. All declared independence in 1821. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on Sept.  16, Sept. 18, and Sept. 21, respectively.
In his proclamation for National Hispanic Heritage Month 2017, President Donald Trump stated, “From America's earliest days, Hispanic Americans have played a prominent and important role in our national heritage, and Hispanic Americans continue to embody the pioneering spirit of America today.  Demonstrating a steadfast commitment to faith, family, and hard work, Hispanic Americans lift up our communities and our economy as entrepreneurs, executives, and small business owners, and make contributions in areas such as science, art, music, politics, academia, government and sports.  In fact, Hispanic-owned small businesses are the fastest growing businesses in America, starting at a pace 15 times the national average over the last decade.  Hispanic Americans own more than three million American businesses and serve with honor in all branches of the Armed Forces, continuing a strong legacy of dedication to our country that has seen the Medal of Honor awarded to 60 Hispanic Americans.  Hispanic Americans are a testament to the American promise that anyone can succeed in the United States through hard work.”
The Multicultural Committee at WRNMMC hosted the observance at the medical center.