Marines warm up to diversity in Phoenix
By Sgt. Jimmie Perkins
| Marine Corps Recruiting Command | July 07, 2004
Perhaps it was the Arizona heat or feelings of patriotism that brought on a warm reception for the Marine Corps as members of the Marine Corps Recruiting Command, 8th Marine Corps Recruiting District and Recruiting Station Phoenix, participated in the 26th Annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference here, June 26-29.
The four-day event, held at the Phoenix Civic Plaza, attracted more than 15,000 participants from across the country to discuss issues affecting the nation’s 35 million Latinos.
"By participating in the conference, we represent the nearly 24,000 Hispanics serving in the Marine Corps,” said Captain Marc Cole, diversity-marketing officer, Marine Corps Recruiting Command. “Our presence here gives the Marine Corps added exposure within the Hispanic community, shows our commitment to diversity and opportunity and keeps a positive impression of the Marine Corps fresh in the minds of people.”
Marines attended the NCLR Conference to enhance the positive image of the Marine Corps and to further develop relationships with leaders and organizations associated with the Hispanic community in America.
To provide information about the Marine Corps, the Marines manned an information booth at the Latino USA Expo, an interactive part of the NCLR Conference. The presence at the Expo gave conference attendees an opportunity to speak with Hispanic Marines, both enlisted and officer. In addition, the booth displayed opportunities that the Marine Corps offers for people of all races.
”It is important for us to reach out to the community and make contacts and partnerships with people who guide, educate and mentor the young adults that we are trying to reach," explained Sgt. Eric Cantu, marketing and public affairs representative from RS Phoenix. “Every other person that came by the booth had a son, daughter, brother or father who served or is serving in the Marine Corps; the ties are there.”
The Marine Corps also took the opportunity to sponsor and participate in the Lideres Youth Town Hall Session, a forum where young Hispanics were given an opportunity to speak on issues that concern them most. Major General Christopher Cortez, commanding general, Marine Corps Recruiting Command, opened the town hall session with words of encouragement and praise for the young adults present.
“It is heartening to see such a young audience and active participation at this conference,” said Cortez. “It shows that you are all leaders, you must keep on learning and stay active because you are the role models of the future.”
Wrapping up the conference on the last day, the Marines attended a luncheon entitled, “A Tribute to Latino Heroes,” where Cortez was a featured speaker. However, it was Lance Corporal Joseph B. Perez, a recipient of the Navy Cross for bravery during Operation Iraqi Freedom, who drew a standing ovation and cheers from the attendees. When asked how he felt about the attention, Perez humbly replied that he was just doing his duty, like any other Marine.