Master chief reflects on Latin roots
U.S. Naval Base Guam Command Master Chief (SW) Johannes Gonzalez stands alongside the men and women of the armed forces who protect the country every day, and this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month reminds him of the culture that helped shape the person and sailor he is today.
“We are a Navy built on heritage,” he said. “It’s really an honor to wear the uniform and serve in the Navy. It’s an honor that the leadership has allowed me to be in this position. It’s pretty special. If you’re willing to open your heart to the (Navy) family, the family will never leave you.”
Around the nation, Navy civilians and sailors like Gonzalez are able to celebrate their culture during Hispanic Heritage Month, which is observed annually from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
“I think we need to celebrate our heritage and make everyone aware that there is a melting pot and we are all essential to tell a story,” he said.
Gonzalez grew up in Panama City and had a book bag and $75 when he arrived in Leesville, La., as a 16 year old with hopes of becoming a United States citizen and enlisting in the Navy.
“I was terrified about what the future would bring,” he said. “I knew it was going to be a better life. I am glad that I was scared. It taught me to focus and to appreciate the little things in life.”
Though his transition to the U.S was filled with challenges as it meant moving away from the culture he had known all his life, he was prepared to face adversity and learn from his mistakes.
“The biggest barrier for me was the language,” he said. “Luckily, in my Navy career, I have had great mentors; sailors that have taken the time to guide me, teach me and most importantly show the way.”
He added that through the challenges he faced, he strived to be a better sailor working with his shipmates on his English and helping others with language barriers.
Story and photo by Jesse Leon Guerrero, Joint Region Marianas Public Affairs
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