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Hispanic Heritage Month: Hispanic Warriors Serve Proudly in US Armed Forces

There’s no denying the U.S. military is one of the most diverse communities in the nation.

The number of Hispanic Americans in active-duty Army grew from 3% in 1985 to 16% in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. The Marine Corps has the largest percentage of enlisted Hispanics at about 20%, which is greater than the percentage of Hispanics in the general population (about 19%).  

Those two military branches highlight a trend of loyal service.

About 80% of people with Hispanic heritage living on the U.S. mainland are American citizens. Men and women of Hispanic descent embraced the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship — including serving in all branches of the U.S. military and fighting in every U.S. conflict — in the last 250 years.

Take any recent conflict and there are many examples of men and women of all backgrounds who sacrificed for the ideals of service and freedom. The Aug. 26, 2021, attack at the Kabul Airport took the lives of 13 service men and women — and five of them were Hispanic.

Service men and women of Hispanic heritage have proudly made their mark in military and civilian society. 

Marine veteran Anthony Villarreal, from Lubbock, Texas, was deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. During the final week of his last tour, his vehicle drove over an improvised explosive device (IED) while bringing back supplies to a base in Afghanistan. Anthony and two other Marines were severely injured in the explosion. The Navy corpsman who was riding with them died instantly.

Anthony spent the next two years in hospitals and rehab. With help from his family and Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP), the proud Marine has found opportunities to share his story with others.

“When 9/11 happened, it just made me want to join, just because I knew I had to serve a country that gave me so much,” he recalled.

“I had read up on military branches, and I just thought the Marine Corps was just right for me.”

Risking his life to defend American ideals came second nature for Anthony, as it did for generations of soldiers from World War I through Desert Storm and post-9/11 conflicts.

Anthony had uncles who had served in the Army, and hard-working civilian parents. “Both of my parents worked their whole lives, and my mom and dad told me they wanted something better for me. I always loved to work. And I loved the hard stuff, so when I heard about the Marine Corps, I knew that was going to be for me.” 

One in five of the veterans served by WWP self-identified as Hispanic, according to the latest Annual Warrior Survey.

Meet some of these wounded warriors:

From 20th century segregated units, like the 65th Infantry Regiment, to the appointment in 1982 of the first Hispanic four-star general, Richard Cavazos, millions of Hispanics have served hand in hand with brothers and sisters from every background. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates there are 1.6 million living veterans of Hispanic descent in the U.S. and its territories. 

Learn more on the history of Hispanics in the U.S. armed forces here.

Contact: Raquel Rivas — Public Relations, rrivas@woundedwarriorproject.org, 904.426.9783

About Wounded Warrior Project

Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.