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Gloria Estefan Salutes Troops With Naval Base Concert

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

NORFOLK, Va., June 26, 2004 – The Defense Department can add Latin music star Gloria Estefan to the growing list of celebrities who have come out to support service members fighting the war on terror.

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Latin music star Gloria Estefan entertains service members during a concert at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., June 25. Estefan performed the free show as part of a "Tribute to Heroes" television special that will air in September. The star said the concert was to thank service members for the "tough job" they do in the military. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
  

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During a free June 25 concert at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Estefan, backed by her Miami Sound Machine band, paid tribute to more than 1,000 service members who cheered wildly as the star sang a medley of her hit recordings.

Estefan's television production company and Spanish cable network Telemundo recorded the concert for a television special called "A Tribute to Heroes" that will air in September. The show's producers have been in Norfolk for a week filming local Hispanic service members and their families for the special.

Estefan said the concert was her way of thanking service members for the "tough job" that they do and to say she is "very proud" of their service.

"I'm thankful for the work that our troops are doing," she said. "That kind of job, it's a very hard job, it's very tough," she added. "They spend a lot of separation from their families, and I know, because I lived it."

The Cuban-born singer's father served in the Army in Vietnam. She said her fondest memory of childhood was growing up on military bases in Texas and South Carolina. The concert, she added, was in part a tribute to her father.

"He came back very ill from 'Nam, and I never got the opportunity to thank him or to tell him how proud I was of him for the things he did, not only for freedom, (but also) because he really fought for that and this country."

Estefan and her production crew spent two days at the naval base, including a visit aboard the USS Gonzalez, a guided missile destroyer named for Vietnam veteran and Marine Corps platoon sergeant Alfredo Cantu Gonzales, the son of Mexican immigrants.

Gonzales died a hero in Vietnam after volunteering to return there for a second tour of duty. He took part in the initial phase of Operation Hue City, near Thaua Thien, where he was killed by rocket fire.

Estefan said the "Tribute to Heroes" special hopes to recognize the contribution of Hispanics like Gonzales. She pointed out that many Hispanics are serving in the military. "Many people don't realize enough how much Hispanics have served this country," she said.

"You know my dad did," she added, "and there were a lot of his friends who were Hispanics who served, so this (concert special) is a nod to them, and a big 'Thank you' from us."

She emphasized, though, that her "thanks" has no ethnic boundaries. Estefan said she is grateful for the job all service members are doing, particularly those serving overseas. She said she hopes the United States achieves peace in Iraq and Afghanistan as soon as possible so that service members there can come home.

"We're all very proud of them," she said. "We're very thankful for the job that they do and the service they're doing for the country and the world, and for the cause of freedom," she said. "I just want to tell them to stay very strong and healthy, and we pray for you every day. Just know that you are in our thoughts, and we think about you a lot."

Meanwhile, service members at the concert very much appreciated Estefan's gratitude.

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Leonette Masters, who said she is a big fan of the singer, said it's important to see "someone from the Latin community show support for service members."

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jose Zuniga, who traveled from North Carolina for the show, said he thought it was "great for Estefan to take the time out of her schedule to come recognize service members."

Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Rivas made the concert a family event, bringing along his wife and two sons. "This concert shows that she really appreciates the job we do for our country," he said.

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Naval Station Norfolk, Va.
USS Gonzales

Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Tech. Sgt. Davis Rivas of Puerto Rico was one of the many Hispanic service members who came to see Latin music star Gloria Estefan perform June 25 at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. Rivas is joined by his wife, Mary, and sons Emmanuel, 7, and Brandon, 8. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageLatin superstar Gloria Estefan poses for a photo with Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Leonette Masters and her family -- son Joshua 8, daughter Paryn 5, and grandmother Donne Maes. Estefan took time to sign autographs and pose for pictures with fans shortly after her June 25 concert at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageService members and their families attending Gloria Estefan's "Tribute to Heroes" concert begin to form near the stage to see the Latin singer at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., June 25. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA  
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