Here's why South Texas native Angie Salinas earned 2021 American Spirit Medallion

Melissa Cantu Trevino
Alice Echo News Journal

Texas native and retired U.S. Marine Corps Major General Angela “Angie” Salinas received the prestigious 2021 American Spirit Medallion at the first-ever, all-virtual American Spirit Awards on Friday, June 18 by the National WWII Museum. 

“First off, I'm incredibly honored and humbled by the recognition. It came as an absolute total surprise to me...When I was notified and that the award represented was patriotism and community service. I was incredibly touched. There are millions of incredible people who have worn the cloth of the nation,” Salinas said. “There's so many other incredible people who are just as deserving. It makes it so much more special.”

Retired USMC Major General Angela Salinas received the prestigious 2021 American Spirit Medallion.

Salinas was born in Alice. Her family moved to Kingsville and then when she was about 7-years-old they moved to Northern California. Her parents, Florita and Amado Salinas, were from South Texas. Amado was a mechanic and migrated. He eventually settled his family in California when he began working for the Ford Company.

“I'm proud to be from (the Alice) community who set my family up for success,” Salinas said. “My roots have always been in Texas.”

Major General Angela Salinas was the first Latina promoted to general officer ranks in the U.S. Marine Corps. She broke ground for women and Latinas.

Salinas is a woman of many firsts. She broke ground as the first Latina promoted to the general officer ranks in the U.S. Marine Corps and the first woman to command a Marine Corps Recruit Depot. In 2013, Salinas retired after 39 years of military service as the highest ranking female in the USMC at the time. She now dedicates her time to empowering future female leaders. She currently lives in San Antonio as “it's the epicenter” for her family.

She enlisted into the military at the age of 19 as a reservist. She also was the first person to attend college in her family. After graduation, Salinas enlisted in active duty.

“I met (the recruiter) on the 30th of April (1974), by the 4th of May (1974) I was saying 'I do solemnly swear to support and defend the constitution.' By the 7th of May, I was already on a plane, had gone to Parris Island. I was already in boot camp with someone yelling at me. I remember thinking 'Oh my God,'” Salinas said. “In hindsight, I tell people it changed my life and I think it ignited in me. I looked around and we all kind of looked alike.”

She enlisted at the tail end of the Vietnam War.

“The draft was gone. It's the infancy of the volunteer force. It was a very interesting time of the war. The country was challenged. I grew up around people that were burning the American flag. People were spitting on protesters. You had people that had served the country and people were spitting on them...It was just a very challenging time for our country," she added. "When the draft ended, I think the Department of Defense really thought people would still serve because they were patriotic and so they waited for all these young men to flock to their doors to enlist. They discovered they didn't. What did come was women. Women became a very valuable resource for the military."

She said she didn't intend to spend about four decades in the service, a record in the Marine Corp for a woman.

”That was never the design. It was as long as I felt I was making a contribution. As long as I felt that it mattered and I loved the idea that I was serving alongside people who were like me,” Salinas said. “It was a volunteer organization that people chose to live this way of life; this selfless service. Every year turned and it was another year, I got promoted and I moved again. And I got promoted and got another great job. Then one day somebody said 'you known you're the oldest woman in the Marine Corp.'”

Along the way Salinas received incredible accolades, but to her it was a team effort. She wanted to be the best Marine she could be.

“The idea that I was joining an organization whose model was the few, the proud. There was even fewer and prouder so that bond, I think, as a Marine and a sense that I was around people who were all like-minded. We knew that we were doing something important and we were willing, because we served the American people and that people don't understand the intangibles when we really say we're defending. We're pledging allegiance to a piece of paper,” Salinas said. “That's the one thing that's different from any other country is that when we take an oath it's to the Constitution, not to a president, not to an administration and so it's a right that we protect for people to have freedoms. ”

Salinas is the current CEO of the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas and is being recognized for her dedication and contributions to the country.

“Girl scouts attracted me because every single girl scout wears the American flag on their vest and on their sash,” she said. “I serve with the girl scouts in the hopes to make the next generation of leaders earlier and see what the impact we can make.”

In addition to the American Spirit Medallion, the museum will recognize recipients of the American Spirit Award, Silver Service Medallion, and Billy Michal Student Leadership Award recipients and to celebrate the lasting legacy of the World War II generation.

For more information on the National WWII Museum or the American Spirit Awards visit