Hispanic Heritage Month; TSgt Jose Velazquez

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Tiffany Del Oso
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Each year, Tyndall Air Force Base observes National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The 325th Fighter Wing celebrates each and every Airman’s history, culture and contributions to the U.S. Air Force. 

Bringing awareness to the fact that everyone comes from a different background is the goal for most people. For Tech. Sgt. Jose Velazquez, 325th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of mental health, it’s ensuring Airmen with different cultural backgrounds feel heard, safe and at home.

Velazquez moved to the United States at 10 years old from Mexico City, Mexico, when his father’s career provided the opportunity.

“It was tough having to leave [friends behind] because at 10 years old, right, that’s your primary focus,” said Velazquez. “The language barrier was probably my biggest challenge. Not only was I trying to make new friends, but I was also trying to learn a language.”

For many immigrants, the shock from being immersed in a vastly different culture can also be very intimidating.

“I expected for people to not be as inviting or kind, especially because I didn’t know the language,” explained Velazquez. “Everyone was always super welcoming and nice, even when I didn’t know [what they were saying] they would always try to help me. I’m very thankful for that because a lot of times when it comes to immigrants, whether they’re from Mexico or other countries, they’re not necessarily always accepted.”

Velazquez explained that though his transition into the U.S. came with a lot of challenges, it opened up a lot of opportunities, including the opportunity to join the Air Force.

“I had a couple of friends that had already started the enlistment process and when they started telling me about it, I was interested so I went to a recruiter to ask some more questions,” explained Velazquez.

Nine years later, Velazquez oversees an entire mental health flight. As the NCOIC, he manages patient care schedules, coordinates higher levels of care, deployment and PCS clearances and maintains a certification as an alcohol and drug abuse counselor.

“Even though he’s not an officer, he’s taught me so many things that I can use as ,” said Capt. Bethany Young, 325th OMRS mental health interim flight commander. “He had so much patience for me when I got here. I feel like his background made him more prepared to have that patience with me and not get really frustrated when I didn’t know things. Instead, he helped guide me through different situations without making me feel incompetent.”

Velazquez also volunteers at the local elementary schools when they ask for bilingual speakers to read to children.

“After talking to some of them, sometimes they feel super scared,” explained Velazquez. “They just don’t think they’re ever going to learn English and I know I felt that way at one point too. So being able to talk to them and mentor them I think has been one of the more rewarding things I’ve been able to do.”