PHOTO: Army Sgt. Maj. Jose Velazquez joined the Army as a way to get out of his hometown and fight the possibility of becoming a “statistic.” U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kimberly Nagle
JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va.– Army Sgt. Maj. Jose Velazquez, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command public affairs sergeant major, is one of the more than 158,000 Hispanic Americans serving in the military today. Reflecting on National Hispanic Heritage Month, which began Sept. 15 and runs through Oct. 15, he recalled what joining the Army meant to him and how it changed his life.
Velazquez said he grew up in the lawless Essex Street Projects of Lawrence, Massachusetts, with his mother, who had moved from Puerto Rico to the United States. “My mother worked in factories to help provide and raise me,” he said. “Her hopes for me were to not become another statistic of the city, with working in a factory or ending up dead on a street corner.” After graduating from high school, Velazquez said, he tried his hand at community college, but fell short. “At the time, I was [still] struggling to not be a statistic, but in many ways I already was,” he explained. “By 1990, I had already failed out of college and had been hired by a clothing factory, working in what was known as the ‘sweat shop.’” Velazquez said he knew this was not the life he wanted to live, but was not sure about how to survive otherwise. ‘I knew I couldn’t stay there’ “I still remember like it was yesterday,” he said. “What I remember the most is the blank stares of the good, decent men and women who worked there. It felt like their hopes and dreams had died amongst those mill walls. I knew I couldn’t stay there. I knew I had to find a way out.”
PHOTO: Air Force Senior Airman Danielle Repp performs an aerial refueling operation in a KC-135 Stratotanker. Photo courtesy of Daniel Repp ROYAL AIR FORCE MILDENHALL, England – Some families have a history of military service, whether it be in different branches or the same one. Less common however, is for two consecutive generations not only serve in the same service branch, but also to pursue the same career field. This is the case with Air Force Senior Airman Danielle Repp, a 351st Air Refueling Squadron boom operator from Spokane, Washington, and her father, retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Repp. Both Repps chose to be boom operators, with Danielle entering the Air Force in 2012. Her father enlisted in 1981. Danielle said her desire to become a boom operator stemmed from her father's career, which she got to observe first-hand growing up. "Boom operator was definitely No. 1 on my list," she said. Her first exposure to the boom operator world was all it took to peak her interest in the career field, she said. "I got to fly space-available once on a flight from Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, to Hawaii, and I got to watch [my dad] during [a [refueling operation]," she recalled. "Seeing pictures and hearing how much he likes the job made me think, 'You know, I don't want to sit at a desk all day. I want to be out there doing something.'"
PHOTO: Army Sgt. 1st Class Laudert of the Minnesota National Guard’s 34th Combat Aviation Brigade and his brother, Army Spc. Cameron Laudert of the Army Reserve’s 452nd Combat Support Hospital, display the White Earth Nation flag while deployed to Camp Buerhing, Kuwait. U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Holly Elkin CAMP BUERHING, Kuwait – Though one serves in the Army Reserve and the other in the Minnesota National Guard, a pair of brothers from Monticello, Minnesota, are deployed here together. “I didn’t know if our paths would cross,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Lowell Laudert as he sat with his brother, Army Spc. Cameron Laudert.
Cameron, a health care specialist, is assigned to the Army Reserve’s 452nd Combat Support Hospital out of Fort Snelling, Minnesota. Lowell, an intelligence analyst, is assigned to the Minnesota Army National Guard’s 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota. When Cameron deployed to Kuwait last year, he said, he never imagined he would be sharing lunches with his brother at the dining facility here. “As soon as I got here, I tracked him down,” said Lowell as the brothers reflected on their reunion. Cameron, having been deployed for several months before his brother joined him, had grown accustomed to being called by his last name. When he heard a familiar voice calling out “Cameron,” he was unsure of how to react.