Hispanic Heritage Month wraps up by honoring Latino veterans

DAVENPORT, Iowa. (KWQC) - LULAC is wrapping up Hispanic Heritage Month by honoring the armed forces, holding its 9th annual military salute on Saturday morning.

M.A.V.A. (Mexican-American Veterans Association) celebrating the 9th annual military salute.

LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens honored the men and women who served in the military or as first responders, "I'm not used to that but I appreciate it," said Salvador Lopez, a World War II Army veteran. Lopez served 22 years in the army and showed up to the salute in his full uniform. He wants us to honor our veterans, especially Latino veterans like himself: "I've seen where we've been discriminated against and I'm proud of my heritage and all I've done since helping them out."

Latinos making up approximately 15% of active-duty military in 2015.

Lieutenant Colonel Gustavo Flores was the keynote speaker of the event, saying, "Latinos have a big role from the very beginning. From the revolution all the way up to the war in Afghanistan. There are several good examples of Latinos serving and the sacrifices they made in the wars. I think it's important to know that piece of history because our countries are strong because of the diversity of folks and the diversity of people around the world."

Flores noted one Latino in particular: Master Sergeant Raul Perez "Roy" Benavidez. He was a member of the United States Army Special Forces and received the Medal of Honor after fighting in South Vietnam, "he sacrificed his life to save others in conflict," said Flores. A local example he pointed out was Hero Street, "the Mexican-Americans who came over from Mexico who lived in boxcars. They believed in their country. They volunteered in World War II and made the ultimate sacrifice. Hero Street is here in the Quad Cities, here where Hispanics can go and see those monuments and be proud of it and their people."

LULAC youth council commemorating each branch of the military with a wreath, ringing a bell to remember those who lost their lives.

National Hispanic Heritage month started in 1968, the month's celebrations come to an end on October 15th. "It's important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month because it gives us a sense of pride, it gives us our history in this country- where a lot of us came from different countries. We celebrate independence days, we tell our stories. We all have our own stories, where we came from, the challenge that we went through and I think it's important to celebrate that and commemorate that, communicate our experiences and pride" said Flores.

While these men aren't from the United States, they are happy to represent and serve. Lopez explained, "I enjoy the service, serving my country." Flores continued with, "I believe in the United States and that's why I'm doing what I'm doing."

The ceremony was scheduled to be at LeClaire Park so the wreaths could be laid in the Mississippi River. Due to flooding, the ceremony had to be moved indoors. Nonetheless, it was a touching moment for all involved.