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Event exalts Latinos

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Take an unwavering commitment to community and a pioneering spirit. Add perseverance, humility, and strength. What you get is the Women’s Auxiliary of American Legion Post 41 Tony F. Soza / Ray Martinez, and Mr. Adam Diaz, the first Mexican American elected to the Phoenix City Council. The Women’s Auxiliary and Mr. Diaz were the honorees at Latino Perspectives Magazine’s second annual Honoring Latinos Who Serve Awards on November 20. Along with special guest the Honorable Raul H. Castro, more than 350 people attended, providing an occasion for sharing memories and heartfelt gratitude for those who have shaped our community and our city.

Mr. Diaz, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday, was honored for a lifetime dedicated to public and community service with an award accepted by his granddaughter Lisa Urias. She shared that Diaz believes in everyone he meets, and consequently ignites the sparks of greatness within them. “Growing up with him, every day was an inspired day,” said Urias.

Josie Herrera and her granddaughter Lexie accepted the award on behalf of the Women’s Auxiliary. Since its formation in 1948, hundreds of women have joined the auxiliary, forming the cornerstone of Post 41 known as the Jewel of the Barrio. Throughout the years, the women have dedicated countless hours toward helping area veterans and their families. “When you come to the post, we gather there as family,” said one auxiliary member in recounting the women’s diverse projects and community connection. The women were lauded as role models, care givers, and healers – a living testament to our nation’s call to service.

Throughout the program, vignettes and interviews highlighted the honorees’ lasting contributions to the community, including a segment produced by APS. Interviews with Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox and Tommy Espinoza from the NCLR Development Fund provided a look at how Diaz influenced their careers, while members of the Women’s auxiliary recounted their work on behalf of Post 41. LPM, APS and KAET collaborated to create a DVD with the aforementioned interviews and the segment on Adam Diaz produced by KAET. 500 copies will be distributed to local libraries.

Phoenix City Manager David Cavazos and Paulina Vazquez Morris, served as emcees, and were joined onstage by guest speakers Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and Tony Moya, manager of Latino relations for SRP. Honorary event chairs included Congressman Ed Pastor, State Senator Richard Miranda, Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, Mayor Phil Gordon, Phoenix Councilman Michael Nowakowski, and NCLR Chairman Daniel Ortega.

Guests were encouraged to take and wear the poppies on each table, which were created by veterans as a small but vibrant symbol of support and remembrance for all those who serve our country.

In addition to this year’s honorees, a group of distinguished men and women who have been profiled in Latino Perspectives Magazine were recognized for their service to our community: David Gonzalez, Arizona U.S. Marshal; Sandra Renteria, Phoenix Police Commander; Marisa Janine Whitaker, 2nd Lt. U.S. Air Force; Mike Leon, Phoenix Police Officer/School Resource Officer; Orlando Pages, Supervisory Special Agent, Phoenix Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation; Captain Gerardo D. Gonzalez, Chief of Public Affairs, 56th Fighter Wing, Luke Air Force Base, Phoenix;  John S. Valenzuela, EMS Transportation Coordinator, Tempe Fire Department; Officer Cecilia Lerma, Arizona Department of Public Safety; Staff Sgt. Erika Jaramillo and Staff Sgt. Annie Jaramillo, Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Fighter Wing Unit; Chief Master Sgt. Bobby Jaramillo, Arizona Air National Guard, and Sgt. Justin T Gallegos, U.S. Army, who died in combat.

Phoenix College President Dr. Anna Solley spoke about the vision and mission of the Raul H. Castro Institute (RCI), as well as the institute’s namesake, noting that Governor Castro’s drive and commitment to succeed – against what may have seemed like insurmountable odds – gives each of us a sense of hope. The institute focuses on educating and strengthening partners that serve the Latino community. The RCI’s partnership with Latino Perspectives Magazine has resulted in projects to preserve the rich history of the Latino community in Arizona, such as the Arizona Latina Trailblazers, an inspiring collection of digital stories about Latinas who helped push our state into the 21st century.

Latino Perspectives Magazine and the Raul H. Castro Institute co-published a book authored by Charles H. Sanderson and edited by Dr. Pete Dimas entitled Nurturing Tradition, Fostering Change:  Patriotism, Community Service and the Women’s Auxiliary of American Legion Tony F. Soza / Ray Martinez Post 41. Copies of the book will be donated to public libraries and high schools throughout the state. On hand to accept the donation was Richard Poutry with the Arizona State Library.

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