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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 504-02
October 07, 2002

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE TO MARK 2002 HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH

The Department of Defense will mark Hispanic Heritage Month with a first of its kind symposium and luncheon on Oct. 9, 2002, in San Antonio, Texas.

This year's symposium and luncheon, to be held at the St. Anthony Wyndam Hotel, represents new initiatives within the Department designed for greater impact. In years past, the Defense Department held a more modest observance of Hispanic Heritage Month in the Pentagon's auditorium.

Both the President's Management Agenda and the Defense Human Resources Strategic Plan call for increasing representation of Hispanics in the Defense workforce. By conducting this conference with Hispanic serving institutions in the area, the department hopes to better share information about employment, business, and partnership opportunities.

Currently, more than 100,000 Latinos serve in uniform, comprising about 9% of the military. The Defense Department hopes to grow those numbers while at the same time highlighting opportunities to serve as a civilian Defense employee.

"We want the Defense Department to be both an employer of choice and a good business partner for the Hispanic community," said Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles S. Abell. "This event not only celebrates our Hispanic heritage, but also provides information on civilian and military careers in Defense to this important community."

San Antonio was chosen as the location for the Defense Department's observance due to its large Hispanic community, the proximity of five military installations, and the close working relationship being developed with San Antonio's seven Hispanic serving institutions.

"It was an obvious choice for us," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense John M. Molino. "I can't think of a better place to celebrate our Hispanic heritage while continuing our outreach to such an important segment of society.'

The theme of the symposium is "Improving Hispanic Representation and Access to Information and Opportunities." The theme for the Luncheon is "Hispanic Americans: Strength, Unity, Faith and Diversity."

Hundreds of thousands of Hispanics have served their nation in uniform, including 38 who have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor.

Hispanic Heritage month is celebrated each year by presidential proclamation. In addition to the San Antonio symposium, the Department of Defense will mark the event with observances at military installations and ships at sea worldwide.