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NEWS | Sept. 24, 2015

Wounded warrior embraces Latino heritage and culture

By Story by Alun Thomas 63rd Regional Support Command

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the 63rd Regional Support Command held an event, Sept. 22, at the headquarters building, Moffett Field, Calif., which brought a taste of Hispanic culture to the command.

One of the guest speakers at the event was retired Army Sgt. Manny-Mendoza Valencia, who was wounded in 2004 by an improvised explosive device in Sadr City, Iraq, losing both legs. 

Valencia said he was originally born in Mexico, with his family later emigrating to the United States, where after adapting to his new surroundings, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

“At first it was difficult, but after being in for a while I found I really liked the Army,” said Valencia. “It was a place that gave me structure and order and a purpose.” 

Valencia said he was promoted through the ranks quickly and was fortunate to travel the world, being stationed in Korea and Germany, as well as numerous locations in the U.S.

“The one thing that always surprised me about being in the Army, no matter where I went, I was never homesick for my culture, because wherever I went there was always other Latino’s in the service,” he said. 

“They could be from Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Cuba or Peru … we were always there in one way or another and we always found each other.”

Valencia said he bonded with his fellow Hispanic Soldiers and felt an intense feeling of comradeship while being far from home.

“That’s one thing about being Latino- no matter how diverse we are from each other, we always stick together,” Valencia continued. “That’s who we are- we go out there and try new things and go to places we’ve never been. But we always keep that part of us that’s different from everybody else.”

Having been out of the service for 10 years following his career ending injuries, Valencia now works in a supervisory capacity at AT&T and said even as a civilian he finds a certain camaraderie with other Latino’s in his workplace.

“It could be whether you like the same music, the same food, but as Latino’s we don’t just stick together, we invite everyone else in too,” he said. “Everything we do we like to include people of all heritage and even with the negative things said about Latino’s we do something about it.”

“We volunteer, we get involved in the community … it’s who we are. Our families came here not knowing a word of English and now lots of them can speak it well,” Valencia added. “I have a cousin who’s a police officer, another who’s going to be a mathematician. Their family members came here with nothing and have given them the chance to do something great.”

Valencia said Hispanics are here and contributing to a nation and its military which has given them so much.

“Latino’s get up and keep fighting, we don’t give up and we always find a way to get the job done,” Valencia said. “Embrace your community and give back like those who came before us.”