For its participation in the armed forces, the DWVA honors the ex-combatants who once left everything for going to serve the nation

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Los Angeles County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) held an event on Friday to recognize the work of Latino veterans in the United States. The event was held at the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall in downtown Los Angeles.

The special guest of the event was Colonel Otto Padrón, president and chief operating officer, of the media company Meruelo Media. In the media of the show many will be able to meet Padrón as the husband of Mexican actress Angélica Vale or the former senior vice president of programming at Univision. What not many know is that Padrón is an infantry officer with more than 35 years of military service in the United States Army Reserve, commanded by the First Brigade of the Pacific Division in Garden Grove.

Otto Padrón has been part of the armed forces for 35 years and is the president of Maruelo Media. (Aurelia Ventura / The Opinion)

Padrón, who was accompanied by his father, said that no matter what the role or color of the skin is within the armed forces, the most important thing is to take care of each other.

"As a Latino in the military, my role is more important because I know that I am representing many like me who have worked hard as my father," Padrón said. "This is what I think of every day at Meruelo Media when I lead my group to be better and fight hard … My motto is a team, a voice, a fight, a goal."

Padrón said his military training has helped him be a better person.

"Every day, as (leader of a) small minority company, in a space of large consolidated companies, we go out and show that we can do it, that we can be better working hard, arriving early and being the last to leave," Padrón said. "That shows who I am, a Cuban, a Hispanic and a member of the military."

Alejandra Figueroa served at army of the state United of the 2003 to 2012. (Aurelia Ventura / La Opinion)

Women are also recognized

Among the guests was Alejandra Figueroa, who served in the United States Army for nine years from 2003 to 2012.

Figueroa, of Mexican roots, said she was proud to be part of a specific celebration for Latino veterans.

"It surprises me and it is an honor because when you talk about a veteran you typically think of a man," said Figueroa, 39. "But knowing that they are also recognizing us and that we are going to fight makes me feel very good."

She said her father was her role model, since he served in the navy.

"I wanted to do something for him to be proud and also be able to serve my country," said Figueroa, 39.

Figueroa made two terms and served in combat. However, he says that trying to rejoin civil life was not easy.

"When I returned from my first shift they had changed to the rules of the truck and I didn't know how to pay it," said the ex-combatant. “The routine was very different for me. I had to make my own decisions instead of following orders. ”

Over time, the army veteran said she has been incorporated into the daily routine and is grateful that there are groups that help veterans.

It is estimated that in the armed forces 11 to 13% are of Latin origin and many of them were sent to fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, it is common to see that when they return many face the same situation as Figueroa.

Ivania Munguía, another former member of the armed forces, said she served three years, from 1986 to 1989, in the Marines branch and had to be discharged for being seriously ill while serving.

He added that his own experience has motivated him to help other veterans join the services of the veterans they deserve.

“I drank contaminated water and it caused a spill, it gave my heart problems. I lost my sight in one eye and now I am disabled, ”Munguía said.

However, she said that although it was difficult the training also made her a very disciplined person.

“It gave me a work ethic that is no longer in these days and taught me how to adapt in any situation,” said veteran of Nicaraguan roots.

Munguía said that on that specific day she was very happy to be part of the group that loaded the colors of the flag.

“I love being here to celebrate too. I am very proud to be Latina and to be a veteran, ”said the former marine.

General Ruth Wong, of the United States Air Force and director of the DMVA, thanked the veterans for their service.

"We are very honored by the contributions and sacrifices of our Latin brothers and sisters in the armed forces," he said. "We cannot thank you enough for the service you have provided to our country."

The DMVA provides assistance to Los Angeles County veterans, active service members and their families with state and federal resources, programs, services and benefits. These include claims for compensation and pensions, medical services, mental health referrals, education and vocational rehabilitation, loan applications and housing grants, employment assistance and referrals for legal services among other services.


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