To the Soldiers, Airmen, and Families of the National Guard
There is a memorial marker in Arlington National Cemetery engraved with the words “In Memory of Humbert Roque Versace.” A Soldier of Puerto Rican and Italian heritage, Captain Versace was taken as a prisoner of war after being ambushed in Vietnam. Despite grievous wounds, despite being held in chains, despite being locked in isolation, Captain Versace proved to be an indomitable force. He attempted to escape on four separate occasions, he swore at his captors in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese, and he did everything he could to maintain the morale of his fellow American prisoners. The night before he was executed, his fellow prisoners of war heard him singing “God Bless America” at the very top of his lungs.
Captain Versace is only one of the many Hispanic Americans who have honorably worn the cloth of our Nation. The month of September is National Hispanic Heritage Month, where we honor the contributions and culture of Hispanic Americans, particularly those who serve in our Armed Forces.
That includes the predominately Hispanic 158th Infantry Regiment from the Arizona National Guard, which inspired General Douglas MacArthur to exclaim “No greater combat-fighting team has ever deployed for battle.”
It includes First Lieutenant Oscar F. Perdomo, a World War II fighter pilot who became an “Ace in a Day” with five confirmed victories during his final combat mission.
It includes Lieutenant General Edward Baca, the 23rd Chief of the National Guard Bureau.
It includes the countless Hispanic Americans whose service continues today, stepping forward to bear the weight of a solemn oath to our Nation.
This month, we celebrate a heritage of faith and family, of hard work and dedication, of service and sacrifice. With gratitude, we thank the Hispanic Americans who have given their all to be part of the American story, and who help us keep our promise to be Always Ready, Always There.
Daniel R. Hokanson
General, U.S. Army
Chief, National Guard Bureau
Tony L. Whitehead
SEA, U.S. Air
National Guard Bureau