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DoD to Host Hispanic American Heritage Month Observance Sept. 18

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2001 – David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, will host the DoD observance of National Hispanic American Heritage Month at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 18 in the Pentagon auditorium.

DoD components worldwide are encouraged to recognize the many contributions of Hispanic Americans to the nation by supporting appropriate ceremonies and activities.

The theme for this year's observance is "Paving the Way for Future Generations." Established in 1989, Hispanic American Heritage Month was set aside to acknowledge and celebrate the diverse Hispanic cultures of American society.

Celebrated from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the observance features a variety of activities on and around military installations worldwide, including keynote speakers, panel discussions, exhibits, films, special menus in military dining facilities and host of other activities.

Keynote speaker for the DoD event is William A. Navas Jr., assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs. Navas, a retired major general is a former director of the Army National Guard. His purview includes personnel readiness, quality of life and health care programs and issues affecting active duty and reserve sailors, Marines and Navy civilian employees.

The native of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, is a member of several organizations, including the American Veterans for Puerto Rico Self Determination, Minuteman Institute for National Defense Studies and the Army Engineer Association.

Air Force Reserve Brig. Gen. Jose M. Portela is another scheduled speaker. Portela is the mobilization assistant to the vice commander of the Air Force Reserve Command at Robins Air Reserve Base, Ga.

The San Juan, Puerto Rico, native is a command pilot with more than 20,000 flying hours and a veteran of the Vietnam War, Operation Just Cause in Panama and the Persian Gulf War. Portela is the only reservist ever to have served as director of mobile forces in Bosnia.

In civilian life, he's a check captain for US Airways and has served as a safety and glass cockpit expert for the Airline Pilots Association. Portela is also a chapter founder of the League of United Latin American Citizens and co-chairman of the Defense Advisory Council on Hispanic Issues.

A Latin rhythms band called "Sol y Rumba" will perform "cultural expressions," according to Veronica D. Cruz, Hispanic employment program manager in DoD's Equal Employment Opportunity Office.

The annual ceremony is traditionally followed by a reception in the Pentagon's executive dining room featuring Hispanic cuisine.

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