Team Tinker celebrates and honors Hispanic heritage month

  • Published
  • By Clayton Cummins
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

National Hispanic Heritage Month was celebrated at Tinker Air Force Base September 22, 2023 with a wide variety of events for civilians and service members to attend.

Every year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct.15. The month celebrates the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

National Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson. President Ronald Reagan lengthened the observance to cover a 30-day period in 1988. It was enacted into law on Aug. 17, 1988, per Public Law 100-402.

The day of celebrations began with keynote speaker Lieutenant Colonel Marisol Chalas, the first Latina National Guard Blackhawk Pilot.

Chalas was born in Bani, Dominican Republic and moved to the United States with her family to Massachusetts at the age of nine. She began her military career as an enlisted Soldier in July 1990. In 2001 she was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Aviation branch from the Georgia Military Institute Officer Candidate School.

Chalas has operations and strategic experience at the United States Army Forces Command and Headquarters, Department of the Army level. Chalas’ international duties entail Battle Captain and Platoon Leader during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Aviation Liaison in the Dominican Republic under a Combined Joint Task Force. Other assignments include Lean Six Sigma advisor, Force Management and Exchange Officer serving with the Canadian Forces in Kingston, Ontario, Canada and two rotations as Company Commander.

Chalas spoke to a large crowd inside dock two at building 230 at Tinker Air Force Base about the history of Hispanic and Latin Americans in the miliary, while sharing her personal story.

“I share my life story with you, not to dwell on the negative but to celebrate what commitment and determination can do,” said Chalas. “You may have and probably will continue to deal with adversity but what matters is how to respond to these challenges. I hope that my story will inspire Hispanic Americans and people from all nationalities and walks of life to pressure their dreams and to never give up.”

Following the morning keynote address, attendees visited the A La Calle block party on Sentry Boulevard complete with food trucks, cultural performances, and educational booths.

Oklahoma Senator Michael Brooks-Jimenez also addressed the crowd.

“This was a wonderful event for the community,” said Captain Isabelle Allen, the 552 Air Control Wing Diversity and Inclusion Manager. “We are grateful for the fantastic speakers and groups that came out and are looking forward to partnering with some incredible organizations to continue expanding our heritage month outreach.”

Friday’s keynote speaker and block party was organized by the Tinker Air Force Base Hispanic & Latino Heritage Club. HLHC Treasurer Mr. Anthony Hernandez noted, “This event brought people together – it encompasses everyone, your family, community, and the Air Force.” One of the 552 Air Control Wing’s priorities is taking care of Airmen. HLHC Vice President A1C Mary Roybal remarked the Wing will, “strengthen our military by breaking barriers through celebrating our differences and unifying our diverse armed forces.”