Sailors, Marines Aboard Amphibious Assault Ship USS Makin Island Observe Hispanic Heritage Month


Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month with an observance held on the ship’s mess decks, Oct. 6.

The celebration included music, food and speeches from Capt. Jim Landers, Makin Island’s commanding officer, and guest speaker Cmdr. Antonio Ochoa, Makin Island’s combat systems officer.

“Hispanic-Americans have served at sea in every war of our nation’s history,” said Landers, who helped kick off the event. “They have not stood on the fringes of service but rather at its center as makers of American history.”

Today, nearly 70,000 Hispanic Sailors, officers and Department of the Navy civilians serve in our Total Force,” added Landers.

During his keynote speech, Ochoa talked of being born and raised in Texas to Spanish-speaking parents and his 24-year career in both the Navy and Marine Corps.

“What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to me,” Ochoa asked the audience. “It is the time we get to recognize Hispanic and Latino contributions to this great nation. We also get to celebrate it with fine foods and dance.”

Ochoa urged Hispanic Sailors and Marines to take pride in their heritage and avoid feelings of having to deny their heritage to make progress.

“We need to look to the future,” said Ochoa. “We must work with the new generations to ensure they benefit from our experiences.”

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Alexander Toledo said that he was happy knowing that his ship was celebrating his Hispanic heritage.

“Makin Island is definitely a place of different cultures, different languages, different backgrounds. And it’s something we really need to pay attention to and be proud of where we are from,” said Toledo.

“Like Cmdr. Ochoa said [during his speech], ‘it’s not something you just say, it’s something you believe in,'” said Toledo. “When he said those words he really inspired me to just tell the world ‘I’m Hispanic and I’m proud.’ Not something to be arrogant about, but something to hold your head up high and in a way with pride.”

Both Hispanic and non-Hispanic crewmembers, who do not normally work in the ship’s galley, volunteered to prepare a special Hispanic lunch for the Sailors and Marines following the ceremony.

It’s always a good thing to observe the different cultures we have on board,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Kevin Daniels who attended the ceremony. “It’s just a reminder of the diversity of the Navy.”

Makin Island is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Posters around the ship displayed this year’s nationwide theme of “Many backgrounds, many stories…One American spirit,” promoting cultural awareness of Hispanic heritage.

President Lyndon B. Johnson first proclaimed National Hispanic Heritage week in 1968 to coincide with the anniversary of the independence of Mexico, Chile, Costa Rico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In 1988, it became a month-long celebration for Americans who trace their roots to Hispanic nations.

Commissioned in 2009, Makin Island is named in honor of the World War II raid carried out by Marine Raider Companies A and B, 2nd Raider Battalion on Japanese-occupied Makin Island Aug. 17-18, 1942. LHD 8 is the second ship to bear the name “USS Makin Island.”
Source: navy, October 12, 2011