ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors are from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
However, for U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ezekiel Brito, the NCO in charge of KC-135 Stratotanker aircrew development, assigned to the 97th Training Squadron, every day is Hispanic Heritage month for him and his family.
“We don’t need a specific time frame to honor and remember who we are and where we come from,” said Brito.
While Brito’s parents were born and raised in Texas, the Dallas native traces his family’s roots to Galeana, Mexico. His grandmother emigrated from Galeana when she was 21 years old after his great-grandfather received documents to come to the U.S.
Although Brito has never visited his ancestral home, he has traveled to see an uncle in the small town of Monclova, Mexico, about 3 hours south of Galeana. While there, Brito got a little taste of what life might have been like for his grandmother and great-grandfather.
“It was simple; no paved roads just dirt, no air-conditioning, but there was electricity,” he said. “I really enjoyed my time there, not my norm but it was peaceful and quiet.”
Brito went on to say that his Hispanic heritage influences every aspect of his life, especially when it comes to work and family.
“In a Mexican household, family comes first and respect for your elders is very important too,” said Brito. “Hard work and dedication is expected in everything you do. Don’t expect a hand out, but never be afraid to ask for help.”
The most important and celebrated traditions in Brito’s family revolve around food.
“Food serves as a unionizer for us,” said Brito. “Growing up, and even to this day, Christmas time is our largest food gathering. My grandma, with the help of my mom, aunt and uncle, would make menudo and tamales, enough to feed a small army.”
These days Brito says, “My grandmother mostly supervises and my mom is the lead cook with the grand kids helping to prepare everything.”
Brito and his wife Christina joined the Air Force together in June of 2001.
In the last 19 years, Brito says he has not always been able to attend his family’s Christmas dinners, but now that he is stationed here in Altus, he never misses an opportunity to help keep the tradition going.