BARSTOW, Calif. (9/28/2012) - Many Americans have paid the
ultimate sacrifice for this country, however it wasn't only U.S.
citizens who shed blood for the freedom of this nation.
Corporal John C. Ordonez, administrative
clerk with Headquarters Battalion, Marine Corps Logistics Base
Barstow, stands as a proud American citizen in front of Mount Vernon
July 4, 2010. Courtesy Photo
According to Immigration Policy Center, as of 2009, more than
100,000 immigrants were serving in the U.S. military. Many of these
service members were not naturalized citizens.
It is for this
reason, among many other contributions made by people of Hispanic
heritage, that the Marine Corps, Marine Administrative Message
445/12, and America as a whole, recognize Hispanic Heritage Month,
Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.
This recognition started in 1968 as
Hispanic Heritage Week, under President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1988,
it became Hispanic Heritage Month, Public Law 100- 402, under
President Ronald Reagan. The beginning of the 30 days of
recognition, Sept. 15, marks the independence of Costa Rica, El
Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile
celebrate their independence on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18 respectively.
D�a de la Raza, Day of the Race, celebrated as Columbus Day in
America, is marked toward the end of the 30 day period, Oct. 12.
These Hispanic anniversaries set the time frame for America as a
whole to recognize and celebrate the contributions made by people of
Not only do Hispanics make up a large portion of our
military, many of them decided to serve this country prior
to obtaining citizenship. For example, Lance Cpl. Jose
Antonio Gutierrez, 22, one of the first service members to
be killed in Iraq, first entered America illegally from
Guatemala and enlisted in the Marine Corps as a legal
resident. Gutierrez received his citizenship posthumously
after dying for “his” country.
“My friends, I want
you, the next time you're down in Washington, D.C., to go to
the Vietnam War Memorial and look at the names engraved in
black granite,” said Senator John McCain, U.S. senator from
Arizona. “You'll find a whole lot of Hispanic names.”
According to Immigration Policy Center, more than 100
service members were granted U.S. citizenship posthumously
during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
States gave me and my family a new life to pursue, the
American dream... joining the service is how I show my
appreciation to America,” said Cpl. John C. Ordonez, an
administrative clerk aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base
Ordonez is one of the many service
members who obtained citizenship through the military. He
arrived in America from Colombia July 7, 2000, when he and
his family applied for political asylum.
For non U.S.
citizens to be granted political asylum, a claim must be
made to an immigration judge. The claim must prove their
safety, while in their home country, was at risk due to
race, religion, social groups, or political preferences.
Since the 11200s,
Colombian people have often been kidnapped and prosecuted by
terrorists. The Ordonez family proved they were in danger and were
given one year and one day to apply for legal residency, a step
before becoming a citizen, Ordonez explained.
a legal resident Ordonez enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was 19
“Becoming a United States Marine was my dream
since high school,” Ordonez said proudly.
“After I completed
my citizenship test I waited for a ceremony held at Mount Vernon in
Washington D.C., the ceremony was held for 101 new citizens
including myself. At the time I was a lance corporal and the only
service member at the ceremony,” Ordonez said, recalling this proud
day. “They gave me the honor to do the Pledge of Allegiance, I was
very proud of that moment.”
Because Ordonez was already
serving in the military, it took him three years to obtain his
citizenship, as opposed to the five years it regularly takes.
“I was the first U.S. citizen in my family,” he said.
Every Marine knows that proud feeling of accomplishment after boot
camp and receiving the Eagle, Globe and Anchor, and becoming a
Marine. The majority of them however, were privileged enough to have
been born a citizen of this country, and never felt the pride of
“becoming” an American.
“I felt as [if] I achieved something
even greater once I received citizenship. Becoming a Marine was also
great, but now I have full
rights, I'm able to vote and be fully
involved with the country,” Ordonez said with pride.
Ordonez is still a proud Marine, now a corporal, and a proud
American. His mother, father and brother are now also citizens who
are very proud of their Marine's accomplishments in the military.
Although an American citizen, Ordonez still takes pride in his
Colombian heritage, through cooking, cultural activities and
language. He is grateful for his hard work ethic, which he says he
acquired from his heritage.
“Many backgrounds, many
stories... one American spirit,” is the theme for this year's
Hispanic Heritage Month.
There are more than 50 million
Latinos in this country, according to census.gov. Take the time this
month to learn about where they came from and reflect on the many
contributions the people of Hispanic descent have made for this
By USMC Pfc. Samuel Ranney
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