Uniform, All of Us Are American
By Karina Valencia
April 14, 2003
Five men and one woman, all Hispanic, members of wings 320 and
363 of the U.S. Air Force, spoke by telephone on Friday with various
journalists from Hispanic media.
Without mentioning where they were, the aviators spoke about their
experiences in the Middle East, their patriotism and their desire
to come home.
One of the interviewees, sergeant Felix Respeto, born in New York,
told about his reaction when his superiors gave him orders to be
a part of the invasion of Iraq. The first thing I thought
about was that I would have to leave my family for who knows how
long, and without knowing when I would see them again, said
His wife, Myra Respeto, together with her two children, is waiting
for Felix Respeto to come home to New Jersey as soon as possible.
We are a very close-knit family. We go everywhere together
and we miss him terribly when he is not here, she said.
Besides Respeto, the other aviators were also anxious to return
to the United States. The aero-technician Melina Curiel, a 20-year
old Mexican who was born in Los Angeles, California, has been in
the Middle East for barely five weeks but she already misses her
boyfriend and her family. The young woman said that she was proud
to become part of history.
I have realized that being part of the Air Force is more
than the education and being able to travel, it is about how proud
you feel inside. Some day I am going to be able to tell my children
that I was there, Curiel said.
The Dominican Diogenes Cruz, a 22-year old senior aero-technician,
said that she feels more American than ever. I
am not a citizen, but when we put on this uniform, even if we are
Latino, we are all American, said Cruz, from Florida, who
was the first in her family to get a university education.
Another one of the participants, the sergeant technician Edwin
Lucian, who has spent just five days on his mission, said that he
found his companions in good morale. Luciano, an aviator from New
York who fixes airplane equipment, has been a member of the Air
Force since he was 19.
This is my job. Until it is finished, I wont come back,
said Rafael Scharron, a commandant who works with health programs.
Scharron, 39, was born in Puerto Rico. He said that he is crazy
to return home, and sent a greeting to his relatives in Puerto
The sergeant technician Juan Carlos Galvez, 34, who was born in
Washington DC but raised in Guatemala, has been in the Air Force
for nearly half of his life. I have been inside for 16 years
and I wouldnt exchange the experiences, lessons and opportunities
that the Air Force has given me for anything, said Galvez,
maintaining firm his pride on being a part of the Operation Iraqi
Translated from Spanish by Jonathan Charnay
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