Fort McCoy News Oct. 14, 2016

Speaker shares story for Hispanic Heritage Month

STORY & PHOTO BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

Milwaukee native Joe Maldonado shared his family heritage, how that heritage has influenced him, and examples of the U.S. military as a catalyst for change during his presentation for the Fort McCoy observance of Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 23 at McCoy's Community Center.

Hispanic Heritage Month is observed each year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The term Hispanic or Latino refers to Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish-speaking culture or origin, regardless of race. The Department of Defense theme for the 2016 observance is "Embracing, Enriching and Enabling America." According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 55 million people, or 17 percent of the American population, are of Hispanic or Latino origin.

"I'm Latino, so I am part of a broader group of people who come from a lot of different countries, ethnicities, nationalities, traditions, and norms who make up the broad cultural term Latino," Maldonado said.

Joe Maldonado, student-services coordinator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor’s Scholarship Program, gives a presentation during the Fort McCoy observance of Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 23 at McCoy’s Community Center.
Joe Maldonado, student-services coordinator for the University of
Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor's Scholarship Program, gives a
presentation during the Fort McCoy observance of Hispanic Heritage
Month Sept. 23 at McCoy's Community Center. Hispanic Heritage Month
is observed each year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

Maldonado is a student-services coordinator for the Chancellor's Scholarship Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has more than a decade of experience in youth and young-adult development, diversity, and leadership training and speaking. He based his presentation on a story — his story.

"The United States of America was founded on a story," Maldonado said. "Stories are narratives. Stories are things that are powerful and bring us together."

Maldonado, raised by Puerto Rican parents on Milwaukee's north side, was raised to understand and embrace his Hispanic heritage and be a proud American. He said that while Milwaukee is known nationally as "one of the most segregated cities," he learned a lot about different cultures and backgrounds by meeting people throughout the city and its suburbs.

"I learned, as a child, how to navigate a lot of different spaces, how to talk to a lot of different types of people, (and) how to hold my own," Maldonado said.

He said the military influence in his Family also was important to his upbringing. His grandfather served in the Army during the early 1950s and his father in the Marines. "(My grandfather) decided that he wanted to do something different with his life (in Puerto Rico) and decided to join the Army," Maldonado said. "He was a cook and served during the Korean War.

"My childhood was spent hearing about my dad's days in basic training, where if you had a little thread out of place, you would get reprimanded," Maldonado said. "He told me about the drills that he had to perform. … A part of his story resonates with me. While a lot of my dad's discipline comes from having a strict Puerto Rican mother … much of it comes from being a Marine. Though he is a rebellious soul, he is regimented.

"He likes order, and he likes things done his way. … I always knew to stand at attention if I acted out of line," he said.
Maldonado's historical perspective about Puerto Rico described many struggles the people of the island have faced and continue to face. He said that despite this, pride in military service and patriotism run deep in the Puerto Rican community.

"What do I know about the people in my life who have served? I know that when they had the duty, they fulfilled that duty," he said. "(They knew) that it's important that you get that job done. They also carried that with them (throughout) their lives."

He also cited examples of how the military has been the forerunner for cultural change for the Hispanic community and all Americans, such as with the desegregation of the military in the late 1940s.

"This was a catalyst to the civil-rights movement," Maldonado said. "The (movement) would not have been what it was had it not been for those GIs who were able to serve in an integrated force."

He said the military also affected Americans through music, including with doo-wop group The Del Vikings — one of the first integrated music groups in America.

"They were formed on a military base," Maldonado said. "These were Soldiers from black, white, and Latino communities from different parts of the United States who decided to bring their cultural (talents) to the table. … It left a legacy for other groups to draw from."

In concluding his presentation, Maldonado noted that while the United States has progressed throughout the years, more can be done.

Garrison Commander Col. David J. Pinter Sr. said he appreciated Maldonado's presentation and encouraged everyone to always look at the importance of diversity in America.

"Look at the diversity that we have not only around the world … but also what we have here as Americans," Pinter said. "(Also) if you look at the success of any team, it's because of the diversity within that team. And it's also about how you reflect, like Joe did with his story. If you reflect on yourself and on your Family … and you learn the story of others … that shows we are constantly learning from each other."

For more information about the DOD's observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, go online to www.defense.gov/News/Special-Reports/0916_hispanic-heritage. For more information about observances at Fort McCoy, contact the Equal Opportunity adviser at 608-388-6153.