Guest post by Daniella Horne, SFI Hispanic Caucus Co-Chair
Everyone who is currently serving or has served in the United States military has a unique story to tell.
We all wake up, we all don the uniform, and we all do our best every day to fulfill our duties to our country. However, in some cases, our military stories are not told; instead, they are swept under rugs and frowned upon when we try to be honest about our experiences.
I am here to tell you how those untold stories have shaped me to be a stronger individual, and led me to committing to learn about the diversity around me.
When I joined the military, I was sent to my first duty station at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. This was the first time I left my home state and, even though I was nervous, I was even more excited to do something for myself and serve the country that opened up its doors to me.
One thing I did not know about was that in areas surrounding the base, people like myself, who are of Hispanic descent, would not be welcomed. It did not matter if I wore the uniform or not; it did not matter if I served in combat for their freedom; it did not matter that I had committed my life to defend the nation… I was stationed in an area where a Latina Woman was met with racial slurs, awful looks, and the typical “go back to your country” phrase we are very used to hearing.
Hispanic women are known to have an independent soul, a strong character, a fearless attitude; yet in the military, instead of celebrating all of those attributes as assets toward becoming great leaders, we are looked down on and shown indifference. I have had leadership constantly choose me, a Hispanic woman, to take on janitorial tasks while my Caucasian counterparts were able to stay in their quarters constantly. I have also had leadership and fellow service members who see my ancestry as a way to intimidate, control and even sexualize me. This is not something I wish on anyone.
Women in the military, especially Hispanic women, are still being discriminated against and stereotyped. We are vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault while serving, and we face inequality in the promotions process, career advancement courses, and more.
I experienced all of this, even during my time in combat zones in the Middle East, where women were already being discriminated against and facing inequality. The looks and whispers you hear from the Afghan Army, the local nationals, and even other countries’ troops who did not have women amongst their ranks. Was I a complete outsider? It sure felt like it. Even with the United States flag worn proudly on my sleeve, and the weapon I would carry on me to defend the freedom I fought for… I was the minority.
Hispanic women within the ranks are not the only ones facing discrimination and inequality within the military community. So are the many military spouses of Hispanic and Latinx backgrounds who follow their service members from one duty station to the next and make the same sacrifices as their counterparts. They face discrimination in the communities they are supposed to feel welcomed in, and this is something that needs to change.
The challenges I have faced and the ones I still face today are used as stepping stones to open up the conversation of how I can support my military community better when it comes to this triggering subject. I use my platform daily to bring awareness to the inequality Hispanic women in uniform and Hispanic spouses face daily. I speak about my background, my culture, share my stories, and advocate for the ones who are not being heard. We need to encourage the dialogue and foster open lines of respectful communication where we can all learn together about the diversity within our circles. We should all come together to serve the diverse community better and help everyone overcome barriers!
Daniella Horne is a U.S Army Veteran and Navy Spouse. She was born in Peru and lived in South Florida before joining the military. She is a freelancer and lifestyle blogger. Currently stationed in Southern California with her spouse and two children. She is currently a full-time student, Dean’s list awardee and working to obtain her degree in English with a concentration in creative writing. Daniella finds joy in creating a safe space for military families through volunteering in her community. She was recognized as the 2022-Armed Forces Insurance Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Spouse of the Year for her volunteering and community work. She is Co-Chair of SFI’s Hispanic Caucus, a PTA board member for her children’s school, a volunteer with Blue Star Families and Military Hearts Matter and she shares resources and advocates for military families and Veterans through her platform @militaryandourlives.
Daniella is on a Secure Families Initiative panel discussion on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion & Military Families this Thursday on Facebook Live. RSVP to get a reminder to tune in.