JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. --
During Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the Department of Defense highlights several service members and focuses on the contributions and accomplishments of those with Hispanic and Latin-American heritage who have committed to their service to the defense of the nation and community.
As of Oct. 31, 2020, according to the Air Force Personnel Center, only 15.6% of the Air Force identifies as Hispanic or Latino. Air National Guard Lt. Col. Daisy Ortiz, a health service administrator assigned to the 108th Medical Group, counts herself amongst that number.
Ortiz is a first generation Colombian American who grew up in New Jersey. Her father came to the United States at the age of 17 and married her mother, who was still in Colombia, shortly after. After a long process of immigration and legal paperwork, Ortiz’s mother was allowed to live in the U.S. and both of her parents eventually became U.S. citizens.
“My parents are my heroes,” said Ortiz. “They came here by themselves, had to learn English, and everything was new to them. My mom was a chemist in Colombia and left that career when she came to the U.S. to support her family.”
Being Colombian American, Ortiz reflects on her 27 year military career, all of which were with the New Jersey ANG, and how her heritage fits into her identity.
“I’m very proud to be Colombian American,” said Ortiz. “I did not fully embrace my background until my twenties. My heritage means so much to me that I decided to keep my maiden name when I got married.”
In 1994 when Ortiz first enlisted, she started as a services Airman and went to school using the Air National Guard’s education benefits.
“When I first joined, it was originally for the tuition benefits,” said Ortiz. “Over time, it has become more about service to my nation. I believe that only 2% of the U.S. population at any given time serves.”
After nine years, she commissioned as a physical therapist with the 108th MDG.
“During my career, my favorite memories and parts of serving are my deployments,” said Ortiz. “I have had a lot of amazing experiences and opportunities in the military like OSATs [Overseas Annual Training] which are great too.”
Eventually, her position as a physical therapist was phased out of the unit. She earned a master’s degree in business administration, and currently serves as the medical group’s health service administrator.
“I love that the military is becoming more diverse,” said Ortiz. “Diversity is to be proud of and something we should celebrate all year round.”