Story and photos by Rick Emert
The Fort Carson Community honored the contributions of Hispanic Americans during an observance at the Elkhorn Conference Center Sept. 24.
The Elkhorn staff had to set up extra tables to accommodate what would have been a standing-room-only crowd for the event.
Garrison Commander Col. Robert F. McLaughlin spoke about the Hispanic influence on the military and the U.S.
“I assure you we are proud of our Hispanic brothers and sisters that serve this nation – not just in the military, but contributing so much culturally to our country,” he said. “They have sacrificed much for this country, and I’m grateful for everything that they have done for this nation.”
The observance featured guest speaker Richard Aguilera, Pueblo city councilman; youth dancers from Danzas Folkloricas Panamericans; and a sampling of Hispanic food.
Aguilera spoke about Pueblo’s contributions to the
U.S. military, including being
the home of four Medal of Honor winners: Pvt. William Crawford, World War II; Marine 2nd Lt. Raymond (Jerry) Murphy, Korea, and Marine Capt. Carl Sitter; and Staff Sgt. Drew Dixon, Vietnam.
A Medal of Honor memorial in Pueblo is dedicated to the four servicemembers, Aguilera said.
“What Pueblo likes to call itself is the ‘Home of Heroes.’ We … have huge statues to the four men who were Medal of Honor winners (from) the city of Pueblo,” he said. “Gen. (Dwight D.) Eisenhower, upon presenting one of the winners, recognized Pueblo had four Medal of Honor winners. He said he wondered what was in the water in Pueblo, Colo., that we have so many heroic people come from Pueblo.”
While the event is designed to honor the contributions of Hispanic Americans, Aguilera also spoke of the opportunities that the military has afforded Hispanics, including a member of his own family.
Aguilera told of his uncle, John Estrada, who was born into poverty but managed to graduate high school and attend community college in Pueblo.
“He went to college for one quarter when they sent him a letter that they were going to draft him,” he said. “He wanted to go into the Air Force. As he was filing in, a Soldier came up and casually asked him: ‘Sir, have you had any college background?’ He said, ‘Yes, I did.’ And, he said, ‘Sir, you’ll have to go get in that line, because that’s the line for officers.’
“He was sent to California, and he got his wings. My grandma had never been anyplace or done anything. On Mother’s Day in 1942, he sent for her to go on a train to California. To the day she died, she swore that, that was the proudest day of her life – the day that he got his wings. This little Mexican lady was able to share that with him.”
Aguilera said his uncle took advantage of all of the education opportunities the military had to offer and earned a degree in engineering before retiring from the Air Force.
“The military gave him all those things – gave him an education, gave him opportunity.
He was able to become the plant manager for
(a spice company). What I’m trying to tell you is that the opportunities our armed services provide people are unbelievable.”