Inaugural event memorable History was made, tears were shed, and the memories of those who served in the military were recounted as Latino Perspectives Magazine held its inaugural Honoring Latinos Who Serve Awards.
The event, Nov. 14 in downtown Phoenix, drew 300 people including such dignitaries as Gov. Janet Napolitano, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and Maricopa County Board of Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox.But the real heroes were the honorees themselves: Dr. Pete R. Dimas and Phoenix American Legion Post 41.
Dimas, a veteran of the Vietnam War, produced and wrote the script for the documentary Los Veteranos of World War II: A Mission for Social Change in Central Arizona. Post 41 was credited with helping Latino veterans challenge discrimination and segregation once they returned home from the battlefield.
The event got off to a rousing and historic start. Gov. Napolitano announced that Brigadier Gen. Hugo E. Salazar was the new adjutant general of the Arizona National Guard, replacing
Gen. David P. Rataczak, who is retiring. Salazar, who has served in the guard for the past 17 years -- most recently as assistant adjutant general -- is the first Latino to hold the post as adjutant general. Napolitano stated the event encompassed what she had envisioned in the planning of the Raul H. Castro Institute.
Interwoven in the program were scenes from Dimas' documentary Los Veteranos. One poignant moment came when an interview with deceased Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Silvestre Herrera was shown.
In a skirmish with Nazi soldiers near the village of Mertzwiller close to the German border, Herrera lost both feet and part of one leg after stepping on a landmine and landing on another. Seated at one of the tables was the widow of one of Post 41's co-founders and former commanders, Ray Martinez. As the clip finished, Martinez's widow held back tears as she recalled, "He (Silvestre) was such a good dancer as a young man. Qué lástima!"
There was much joy to celebrate as well as friends and relatives of those honored came from different parts of the country. A relative of "Lencho" Othon even made the trip overseas from Ireland. As Dimas graciously accepted his award, he looked out into the audience and thanked those veterans in attendance for all their contributions. There were also members of the Valley's fire and police departments as well as current soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.Several individuals who have been profiled in the monthly section "Latinos who Serve" were also in attendance, including Mesa Police Chief George Gascón; Martin Navarrete, from the City of Surprise Fire Department; Col. Alberto Gonzalez, Arizona National Guard; and World War II veteran and Bushmaster Steve Zozaya.
Latino Perspectives Magazine and the Raul H. Castro Institute co-published a book authored by Charles H. Sanderson on the history of Post 41: The Faces of Post 41. Copies of the book and Dimas' documentary will be donated to public libraries and high schools in the state. On hand to accept the donation was Richard Poutry with the Arizona State Library.José Cárdenas, Arizona State University senior vice president and general counsel, and Anna Maria Chavez, deputy chief of staff for urban relations in the governor's office, served as Master and Mistress of ceremonies.
Other speakers included Tony Moya, SRP's manager of Latino Relations, who emphasized Salt River Project's commitment to the communities it serves, and Dr. Trino Sandoval, interim director of the Raul H. Castro Institute. SRP was the title sponsor and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and BBVA Compass were participating sponsors.
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.