LULAC Honors All Veterans Under Our Broad Stripes And Bright Stars

Nation’s Largest and Oldest Latino Civil Rights Organization Says America’s Flag Is Large Enough to Celebrate All Who Have Served

Washington, DC - The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is marking Veterans Day 2021 as an unprecedented moment of honoring every man and woman who has loyally served in our nation’s armed forces. We urge all Americans to join us in unfurling our flag and allowing all who have sworn allegiance to and served its broad stripes and bright stars the honor they have earned by saluting them also, some for the first time.

"As National President of LULAC, I have seen firsthand the high price some of our veterans have paid, and we are determined not to let their cause, their honor, or their needs be forgotten," says Domingo Garcia. “We must end the false distinction between veterans and instead, see them all as the few who stood when called, who stepped forward when needed, and gave their all without regard for themselves. There is no greater honor than that, irrespective of whatever other label is placed on them.

LULAC sounds the battle cry loudly again! We must fix the VA system to deliver on our promise to our veterans who wait weeks or months for care. Equally important, the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act must become law so that we end the harm and even death at the hands of fellow servicemembers. At the same time, the Brandon Act must be passed now in the U.S. Senate and become part of the National Defense Authorization Act. You cannot address the protection and safety of our service members fully without providing access to vital mental health resources. The time to do so is now to end death by suicide in our military," says Garcia.

On this Veterans Day, we honor several of the outstanding men and women in the LULAC family and say thank you!

Queta Rodriguez, Captain, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret)
Captain Rodríguez enlisted in the Marine Corps in December 1991 and spent ten years as an Intelligence Analyst. During this time, she deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia, in Operation Restore Hope and served numerous Pacific and Southwest Asia locations. Following her commission as a Second Lieutenant in 2001, she served as a Manpower Operations Officer and deployed extensively throughout the Middle East. She retired in January 2012 after 20 years of faithful service. Captain Rodríguez serves as co-chair for the San Antonio Regional Community Veterans Engagement Board and volunteers with numerous veteran and non-veteran community-based organizations. She is a past member of the League of United Latin American Citizens National Women's Commission and serves on the LULAC Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Edward “Fast Eddie” Cabrera, U.S. Air Force (Ret)
Born in East Los Angeles, Edward Cabrera, graduated from the US Air Force Academy and became a highly decorated fighter pilot and experimental test pilot, winning both Air Force-level and national-level awards such as the Collier Trophy. He has flown more than 70 different aircraft in 11 different countries, and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is the only Air Force pilot in aviation history to have flown both the X-32 concept demonstrator and the F-22 Raptor. Today, he is a member of LULAC Chapter 3274 and is the co-founder and President of Hispanic Veterans Leadership Alliance (HVLA), a non-profit dedicated to advancing the inclusion of Hispanics across the Department of Defense. "Fast Eddie" and the HVLA team work every day to ensure that our military leaders reflect the changing face of America in order to improve military readiness.

Joel Taboada, U.S. Army Combat Veteran
Joel Taboada served 12 years in the United States Army from 2003 - 2015. He served in multiple hazard duty locations during that time, including two tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. He adds, "During those deployments, I realized that not only do Latinos serve our country honorably, we are also willing to lead our men and women during the hardest of times. We do so by leading them from the front. This service is what propels many veterans to come back home and continue their service by working to improve their communities and to continue fighting for what they believe is right.”

Taboada earned many decorations, including Bronze Star Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Army Commendation Medal (x 5), Army Achievement Medal (x 4), Army Good Conduct Medal, Combat Action Badge, and many other awards and decorations. "These decorations serve as a reminder that at times, things can be difficult, but with the help of our team and community, we can survive and even excel during the most difficult of times,” adds Taboada. Taboada is president of LULAC “Green Card Veterans” Council #5310.

Leonard Gonzales - U.S. Air Force Vietnam Veteran
Gonzales is a Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force for eight years. He was honorably discharged, having served in various capacities, including security forces, personnel, workforce, and various special duty assignments. Gonzales adds, "For me, there is a special personal pride in what fellow veterans can do together even after active service. I have worked with fellow former servicemember Hector Barajas, a repatriated veteran and Executive Director of Deported Veterans Support House located in Tijuana, Mexico. In addition, I have served alongside fellow U.S. Air Force comrade and LULAC Council President (Retired Chief) Gil Flores at a health service delivery event, representing LULAC Veterans. As most Veterans who are able, we continue to serve our community in whatever capacity we can, and I am honored to do so." Gonzales is LULAC Vice-Chair, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Danitza G. James, M.S.W. - U.S. Army Combat Veteran
Dee joined the Army in June of 2001 as a Heavy Wheeled Vehicle Operator and excelled to the Non- Commissioned Officer rank. She served two combat deployments to Iraq as a gunner and logged over 400,000 mission miles. By leveraging her understanding of the complexity of military life not only as a veteran but as a family member and survivor, Dee can advocate and support veterans who have faced challenges during and after military service. Dee's passion lies within Suicide Prevention, Sexual Assault & Harassment Advocacy, and the Repatriation of Deported Veterans. Her passion for supporting military veterans and families is a personal matter. Her passion extends to developing and advocating programs and policies that directly and indirectly affect the entire military community. She currently works for the Department of The Air Force. She volunteers her time as the Chief for Policy & Legislation at Repatriate our Patriots, a 501c3 organization that focuses on bringing Deported Veterans home. In addition, Dee serves with LULAC as the Co-Chair for the Subcommittee on Military and Veterans Legislative Affairs.

Patrick Caserta – NCCS(SW) Patrick Caserta Branch U.S Navy
Patrick Caserta is the father of Brandon Caserta and was proud to have served 22-years in the Navy. He adds, “During my career, I traveled the world and did many deployments as part of my service to the country. This included serving in Desert Storm and other wars as an American servicemember. My military journey took me to many commands, and I witnessed many things which will remain with me the rest of my life. Yet, the loss of my son, Brandon, is by far the worst I have ever endured. In the commands I served in, we never killed our servicemembers. The same cannot be said for Brandon. Each year hundreds of service members die by suicide. In my son's case, he was murdered by suicide after enduring unspeakable abuse and mistreatment by the Navy."

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Brandon Act, which acts as a verbal 911. This legislation, when enacted, will save thousands of service members' lives. It empowers service members and enables them to get the help they need when they need it. The Brandon Act builds a foundation that can improve in years to come so that all service members get the medical care they have been promised and deserve. The Brandon Act will stop all this and make the military a better safe place to serve. "AE3 Brandon Caserta was my son, best friend, and fellow veteran," says Patrick. "He deserved better, and so do many other loved ones who are dying by suicide at a rate of three active service members and 22 veterans every day. Let's get the Brandon Act passed and put a stop to all military suicides, period," he adds.

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As you have read, LULAC is underscoring several important pillars as we unfurl America’s flag to embrace all veterans:

Included among these are undocumented immigrant service members deported even after their faithful duty to the United States. Today, they live on foreign soil, unable to return to the home they defended and denied the very document they were willing to die for to be recognized as Americans. Ironically, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services holds more than 90 ceremonies this Veterans Day, naturalizing 4,440 current and former military members and their families.

So too, LULAC acknowledges those men and women in uniform who are now veterans posthumously. Warriors like Brandon Caserta died by suicide at the hands of an unrelenting enemy they were asked to fight. Still, they were denied the weapons to defend themselves, medical care, and treatment for their illness. LULAC urges the Senate Armed Services Committee to pass the Brandon Act now.

As importantly, we salute the 13 servicemembers killed in a terrorist attack while protecting American forces and their partners departing from Kabul, Afghanistan. Sadly, the importance of their sacrifice was marred by those who would politicize their deaths. LULAC remembers these veterans, too, forever.

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About LULAC
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation’s largest and oldest Hispanic civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC’s programs, services, and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting the critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit https://lulac.org/

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