Marines return to birthplace to celebrate future
By Sgt. Jimmie Perkins
| Marine Corps Recruiting Command | July 19, 2005
Marines gathered in the City of “Brotherly Love,” July 15-20, to participate in the 2005 National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Annual Conference and reaffirm its commitment in providing opportunities for Hispanics.
The conference, held over five days at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, featured workgroups, discussion forums, and other special events that addressed emerging Hispanic issues and recognized Hispanic achievement.
Representing approximately 14 percent of currently serving Marines, today’s Hispanic Marines carry on a proud heritage and point to a solid foundation for the future of the Corps’.
“The Marine Corps shares in the vision of La Raza to ensure that every young person in America has a voice, receives a quality education and is encouraged to reach their highest potential,” said Capt. Chris Luciano, project officer for Marine Corps Recruiting Command (MCRC). “We are proud to honor the many NCLR conference participants, guest speakers and Marines who embody the proud heritage of leadership that is at the center of the Marine Corps.”
The Marine Corps co-sponsored one event, the Youth Lideres Town Hall, a roundtable forum for and by young Hispanics. At the event, Marine Colonel Angie Salinas, the highest-ranking Hispanic female in the Marine Corps, provided opening remarks with words of encouragement and praise. Speaking to the young teenagers present, she acknowledged their leadership, community involvement and passion for doing the right thing.
“You are proof that young people do care about politics, service and the community,” said Salinas. “You are making a difference in issues that affect us all.”
Not only were the Marines an inspiration to Hispanic teens attending the NCLR Conference, but several Marines took time to visit and spend time with local youth in the north Philadelphia community. They visited the Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community Bilingual Charter School. The school is run through the support of the ASPIRA Association, a national non-profit organization dedicated to the educational development of Puerto Rican and other Latino youth. Puerto Ricans represent the largest portion of the Hispanic population in Philadelphia. Three Marines of Puerto Rican descent, Gunnery Sgt. Louie Aviles, Gunnery Sgt. Domingo Torres Jr., and Staff Sgt. Jose Herrera all connected with the kids during the visit.
“This is a great thing we are doing, visiting with these younger kids and teaching them about responsibility, taking risks, being leaders and good role models,” said Col. Juan Ayala, commanding officer of Marine Wing Support Group-37, who also visited with the students. “To encourage this at a younger age gives these kids a chance, before they fall in with the wrong crowd.”
During the Conference Expo, the Marines also ran an information booth and chin up challenge to provide information on opportunities available to young men and women interested in the Marine Corps. Some leads were generated but more valuable was the positive exposure of the Marine Corps to thousands of conference attendees.
“We had one main mission here and that was to show that we are serious about diversity opportunities in the Corps, “ said Luciano. “I think based on the warm welcome we have received from the NCLR and the kind people of Philadelphia this was definitely a mission success.”