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Mom a big factor in Airman’s life

Airman 1st Class Diandra Velasquez, a medical technician with the 72nd Medical Operations Squadron, exemplifies the Air Force’s Core Values and is proud of her Hispanic culture and traditions. Airman Velasquez is being highlighted during National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

Airman 1st Class Diandra Velasquez, a medical technician with the 72nd Medical Operations Squadron, exemplifies the Air Force’s Core Values and is proud of her Hispanic culture and traditions. Airman Velasquez is being highlighted during National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. (Air Force photo by Kelly White)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

Airman 1st Class Diandra Velasquez enjoys close-knit ties with lots of extended family members, but nothing tops her love for her mother.

In fact, she joined the Air Force a little more than a year ago partly for her mom.

“I had a scholarship for college, but I really wanted to help take care of my mom,” Velasquez said. “She’s basically the person I look up to because she raised me when my father wasn’t there.”

The medical technician with the 72nd Medical Operations Squadron describes her mother Sofia as accepting of her daughter’s choices, but always with a dose of motherly advice.

Her mother’s attitude, she said, is, “I’ll tell you what I think and what I think is kind of right, but in the end you’re going to do what you’re going to do, and I’ll support you either way.

“I admire that so much, and I was telling her, ‘Mom, college is so expensive and I want to take care of you, so I’m going to join the military.’ And she was like, ‘OK, I’m going to support you 100 percent of the way.’”

Velasquez shared stories of her family, culture and traditions as part of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which ends Sunday. She grew up in Washington state and her family roots are Salvadoran.

Extended family ties are a common trait among the many nations that share Hispanic heritage, she said.

“I grew up with so much family everywhere, and it’s such a support for you that can come from just playing games or making food together,” Velasquez said. “We always had all these people coming over, and living that way is rewarding because it’s a different experience in a Hispanic home. It was great sharing that because I was proud of it.”

Christmas rarely passes without family members making “panes con pollo” – chicken sandwiches with a tomato sauce and garnished with “curtido,” a slaw of pickles, cabbage and carrots.

“We don’t make it any other time, so when we make it, it’s a big deal for Christmas,” she said. “People make food just to make food, but you have to make it with love. That changes everything. Putting your heart and soul into something – people taste that. You just taste the feeling behind it and the passion we have for making people happy.”

Her father served in the U.S. Navy, her great grandfather served in World War II and her little sister is following in her footsteps: She joined the Air Force in September.

She said her immediate family members, including a brother, support her military life, but extended family members sometimes don’t understand. Hispanic families are generally protective of each other.

“It’s very different,” she said. “I posted a picture of my hazmat gear a couple of days ago and they’re like, ‘Is she OK? What are they doing to her?’ I had to say, ‘I’m fine. I’m all right.’”

As a med tech, Velasquez is the first person most patients see in the exam room. She’ll weigh them, take their blood pressure and ask pertinent questions. She said she wants to pursue becoming a psychiatric nurse.

“I love what I do, and I love what I am,” she said. “I’m just happy with the entirety of everything. If a person sees me as anything positive, then that’s what I am for you, and I’ll continue to be that because I’ll never skew away from this path.”