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Many Backgrounds, Many Stories, One American Spirit
by USMC Pfc. Samuel Ranney - October 5, 2012

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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
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 Hispanic descent.

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.

“The United 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 Barstow, Calif.

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.

After becoming a legal resident Ordonez enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was 19 years old.

“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.

Today 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 country.

By USMC Pfc. Samuel Ranney
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2012

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