Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 to recognize the accomplishments and contributions of Spanish American champions who have inspired others to succeed. Janet Sanchez created the Facebook group Esposas Militares Hispanas USA in 2007 to support other Latino / Hispanic military families facing language barriers. The group has since grown into a non-profit organization to expand its mission with Janet as president.
Hispanic and Latin American youth are the fastest growing group entering the military today. It is one of the few institutions to offer a viable safety net and a host of benefits to this marginalized community, prompting many to sign up for the service, even knowing the potential cost of living. Despite the growing numbers, Latinos and their families are still overlooked when it comes to simply having the resources available to them.
As a wife of a Hispanic military for 26 years, I understand the difficulties faced by those in my position or similar. Many military families are first- or second-generation community members who are just beginning to navigate American society and face the challenges of cultural barriers, especially when it comes to language. It starts with the military itself: Latinos make up only 8% of the officer corps and 2% of general / flag officers. These positions require university degrees, which have always been more difficult to obtain due to this barrier, in addition to economic inequalities.
I was born and raised in Cidra, a small town in Puerto Rico. From childhood I was taught to serve others when there was a need. So in 2007, I saw an opportunity to support other Hispanic / Latin military families and founded Esposas Militares Hispanas USA, a Facebook group turned nonprofit, to help amplify voices. of those families who are often left behind by this system. In doing so, our network provides educational resources to overcome these barriers and helps close these support gaps, while pushing the military to do the same.
As a military spouse, the struggle to feel isolated is close to my heart. It’s hard to move and leave everything behind – friends, careers and community. You often have to start all over again.
When my husband joined the army, I was alone. It was him, the baby and me – and sometimes just the baby and me. I was always worried about how my accent and not knowing perfect English would affect my next move. I volunteered in any way I could to get involved, find friends and practice my English. Not everyone is an extrovert like me, so it was very sad to see how many other spouses with language barriers were alone. In every base, in every military community, this is something that I would encounter. I felt I was the magnet to unify this community. I felt that maybe a coffee, a hello, a compliment could alleviate this isolation. As a military spouse we unfortunately learn to be alone and how important it is to be independent and ready for unexpected changes, but it doesn’t work well when there are language barriers.
These are just a few obstacles that motivate my mission at Esposas Militares Hispanas.
We take the phrase âno man left behindâ as seriously as our spouses, and we are deeply committed to ensuring that military families with language and cultural barriers are aware of education, training programs. defending their rights and the resources at their disposal. Our volunteers are military spouses who want to give back to their own community. As we empower ourselves to grow professionally and personally and share our experiences, volunteers are the strength of our organization – without them Esposas Militares Hispanas USA is not possible.
I am proud to say that in the 15 years since Esposas Militares Hispanas started, we have provided educational programs, financial and employment resources, community links and support groups to help to the integration of its members into the broader military community. The bonds we have forged through the group have helped other spouses realize that they are not alone on this journey and that they have a community to turn to no matter where the next move may take them. We have been able to help alleviate the sense of isolation our community has faced for decades, while also working to provide equitable resources for the well-being of our families.
Esposas Militares Hispanas has been a powerful force in alleviating the conflicts facing our serving spouses and their families – and we are happy to be a part of this positive movement. However, our impact is small compared to what the military itself can do for our entire community with just a few small policy adjustments. I hope that by connecting these families through Esposas Militares Hispanas, our voices can finally be heard.
Janet’s work is part of this year’s Facebook Community Accelerator Program. Janet now lives in San Antonio, Texas with her husband who retired from the military after 25 years of service. In her spare time, you might find her spending time with her family, cooking and dancing.
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