Skip to Main Content

Task Force Spartan Soldier wins prestigious award, speaks on heritage, culture

Article by Sgt. Marc Loi, Task Force Public Affairs

A 29th Infantry Division Soldier deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Spartan Shield was named a 2021 Latina Style Distinguished Military Service winner. 

Maj. Sandra Wright, a division engineer, was one of three Soldiers to receive the award. The Maryland native was honored in a virtual ceremony Sept. 23. The award ceremony took place during Hispanic Heritage Month, which highlights the accomplishments and achievements of Hispanic-Americans. 

For Wright, being Latina and American allows her to be at her most optimal for the Army. While she can enjoy the benefits of being American that she otherwise wouldn’t have gotten were she not, Wright also gives back because of her background. Born to Argentinian parents, Wright said she grew up learning certain values and practices that she brought with her into the Army, which helped her connect with more people to build a stronger team. 

“My mother taught me that you don’t show up empty-handed,” Wright said. “So, I would bring snacks to every command and staff meeting I had with my previous units.” 

Because sharing food is an intimate act, doing so can also bring Soldiers closer together and introduce others to cultures they otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to. As an example, Wright said a Soldier from her previous unit once brought pupusas – the Salvadoran flatbread filled with different meats and spices – to a battle assembly to share with other Soldiers. 

“Many Soldiers had no idea what they were,” Wright said. “But everyone dug in and loved them. Every weekend, they would ask when they would get pupusas. We [all] learn from one another’s rich cultural backgrounds.” 

Maj. Sandra Wright, an engineer assigned to 29th Infantry Division, performs the low-crawl during the National Guard Endurance Race Team trials where she made the National Race Team. Aside from physical fitness, Wright said she also enjoys sharing her culture and heritage with other Soldiers. (Courtesy photo)

Besides food, language also helps Wright provide more impact as a Soldier. On a recent mission in El Salvador to build a school, Wright and other Spanish-speaking Soldiers also served as translators when there weren’t enough to go around.

“Everyone thought it was great that three of my Soldiers and I could speak Spanish and engage Salvadoran engineers, material vendors, and locals on that trip,” Wright said. 

Despite her forward-facing presence, Wright said she never thought of herself a role-model. 

“I am not ready to own that title yet, but I am working to be worthy of it one day,” Wright said. 

Still, Wright said she embraces the duality of her heritage as a Latina and an American Soldier. 

“I get to celebrate the 4th of July and the 9th of July (Argentina’s Independence Day),” she said. “ It also means I have a huge family in South America cheering me on throughout my career and excited to see me in uniform and working hard for the U.S., because they feel I’m representing my strong upbringing here.”