For generations, members of the Lopez family have proudly served in the United States military. As a family, they've put in 291 years of combined military service.
Arthur Lopez, 83, a retired U.S. Navy chief petty officer, said his family embodies the long tradition of Hispanics, Chicano and Mexican-American military service to the nation.
"Professions are often handed down in families, and in our family it happens to be serving in the military," Arthur said.
Arthur said his family hails from New Mexico and his family's military service dates back to World War I and World War II.
"Three of my uncles served in the first world war. Two were in the Army and one was in the Marines," he said. "I also had two uncles in the Army during World War II."
He said people are often unaware of how many Hispanics served in the first and second world wars.
According to the National World War II Museum website, more than 500,000 Latinos -- including 350,000 Mexican Americans and 53,000 Puerto Ricans -- served in the war.
Arthur's youngest brother, Gordon Lopez, 68, a retired Navy commander, said Hispanics have been contributing to the nation's military service as far back as the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.
Gordon said New Mexico Hispanic Union volunteers drove back thousands of Confederate troops in the battle of Glorieta Pass. He said those troops kept the Southwest and West, along with all its resources, solidly in the hands of the Union.
"Military service to this nation by Hispanics -- in particular, those of Mexican-American descent -- had been largely ignored until recently, with Anglo-Saxon majorities, for the most part, receiving accolades for their wartime contributions while other ethnics had taken a back seat in being recognized," Gordon said.
Arthur said while serving in the military, he heard many fellow service members boasting about their family's rich military history. After hearing all the bragging, he and Gordon were inspired to discover and get recognition for their own family's unique military history.
Arthur, the oldest of his siblings, said he first decided to join the Navy in 1951 after the Korean War broke out. He explained that he convinced his younger brother, Larry Lopez, to sign up with him.
"We got there at the recruiting station at 9 a.m., and by 2 p.m. in the afternoon my brother and I were on a train for San Diego," Arthur said.
Once Arthur was recruited, he served in the Navy for 26 years as a cryptologic technician in communications. Arthur said his decision to join the Navy was one of the best choices he ever made and it was also one he feels inspired his siblings to follow in his footsteps.
All seven of the Lopez brothers -- Arthur, Larry, Clyde, Edward, Delbert, Stanley and Gordon -- served in the Navy at some point.
"The only one who didn't join the military was my sister," Arthur said. "Her son would go on to join the Navy, though."
Arthur said the neat thing about he and his brothers was they all served in the same sector for the Navy.
"There were six brothers at one time serving the U.S. Navy Security Group as cryptologic technicians," Arthur said. "And all my brothers were geniuses. We wouldn't have been in that particular group if we weren't. We were all cryptologists. Cryptology is Navy intelligence."
Five of the Lopez brothers were linguists who learned to speak multiple languages to serve their country.
Gordon said he and his brothers were entrusted with the nation's highest security clearances and brought their natural talents, schooling and training in linguistics, communications, electronics, cryptology and cybersecurity to the forefront of confronting the country's enemies.
According to Gordon, the brothers served on Navy air and sea platforms across the world from Vietnam to Turkey, Dominican Republic, Korea, Japan and many other locations across the world. He said he and his brothers served a total of 150 years between the seven of them.
Arthur said the work he and his brothers did in the Navy was handed down to their children. He said his son and many of his sibling's children went on to serve in the Navy, too.
"What's neat is most of the children went on to serve in the Navy as cryptologic technicians, too," Arthur said. "Even some of my brother's grandchildren have joined the Navy and are currently serving as cryptologic technicians."
According to Arthur, eight members of the Lopez family have attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif. He said the some of the languages the family can read, write and speak include Spanish, Bulgarian, Russian, Polish, German, Indonesian, Tagalog and Mandarin Chinese.
Arthur said six members of the Lopez family have reached the senior noncommissioned officer rank of chief petty officer, while others have reached ranks as high as commander and captain.
"The five Sullivan brothers are rightfully recognized for their service to country; all having died on one ship when the Japanese torpedoed their U.S. Navy ship," Gordon said. "The Lopez brothers and their progeny are also recognized widely within the Navy and its cryptology services for their contributions to the nation, and as representatives of thousands of Hispanic families who put country first in confronting our nation's enemies."
(c)2013 the Alamogordo Daily News (Alamogordo, N.M.)
Visit the Alamogordo Daily News (Alamogordo, N.M.) at www.alamogordonews.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
Original headline: A Mexican-American family has unique, rich military history
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