2022 National LATINA Symposium

By Gloria Romano-Barrera

On Thursday, September 29th, LATINA Style proudly honored Latinas serving in the Armed Forces at the Washington Hilton in Washington D.C. Since 2004 the National LATINA Symposium is a one-day event that convenes Latinas from coast to coast to address the most pressing issue affecting their lives. The highlight of the National LATINA Symposium is the Distinguished Military Service Awards Luncheon honoring Latinas serving in the Armed Forces.

Gathering a distinguished group of national and local leaders, partners, sponsors, and honorees from throughout the nation, LATINA Style kicked off its leadership reception on the evening of September 28th. Title sponsor remarks were provided by Pepe Estrada, Director of Public Affairs, Walmart; and Symposium sponsor remarks were provided by Silvana Montenegro, Global Head of Advancing Hispanics & Latinos at JPMorgan Chase and Mike Caraballo, SVP, Home Lending Product Strategy & Delivery, Wells Fargo & Company.

On the morning of September 29th, Mistress of Ceremonies, SMSgt Christian Johnson, U.S. Air Force and Robert Bard, president & CEO, LATINA Style, Inc., welcomed the following key speakers. Title sponsor remarks were provided by Robert Duhart, vice president and deputy chief security officer, Walmart. Sponsor remarks were provided by Marilyn Espinal, marketing communications-measurement strategy & analytics, SAIC; Mark Elliott, managing director & global head of military & veterans affairs, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Special guest speakers included the Honorable Carlos Del Toro, U.S. Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Gabe Camarillo, U.S. Under Secretary of the Army and the Honorable Gina Ortiz Jones, U.S. Under Secretary of the Air Force.

Special recognition was presented to Wells Fargo Veterans’ Connection Employee Resource Network (VC-ERN) as the 2022 Corporate Veteran ERG and the 2022 Veteran of the Year was presented to Brenda Durham, SVP & Regional General Counsel, Caribbean & Latin America at Marriott International, Inc.

During the first session of the day “Powerful Leadership Lessons… Leading by Example,” successful Latinas in the military shared lessons learned, experiences gained throughout the years and ways to overcome challenges. Moderated by MAJ Lidilia Garcia, U.S. Army, panelists included COL Yadira Greeson, U.S. Air Force; RDML Maria “Lore” Aguayo, U.S. Navy; COL Maria S. McMillen, U.S. Marine Corps; and LCDR Lauren Gonzales, U.S. Coast Guard.

The second session “Nurturing Latina Success,” offered attendees guidance and advice on leadership and self-development. Panelists discussed what support systems help them continue their pursuit to success. Moderated by MAJ General, Ret Linda R. Urrutia-Varhall, U.S. Air Force, panelists included MAJ Lynmarie Rivera, U.S. Army; MSG Thelma Barrios, U.S.  National Guard; LT Hailey Guerra; U.S. Navy; MSgt Carmen Christman, U.S. Marine Corps; LT Maria McElhaney, U.S. Coast Guard.

During the third session “Successfully Transitioning from Active Military Service to Civilian and Corporate Careers,” attendees learned how veteran mentorship, sponsorships and retention programs are essential for corporate success. The integration of returning military into the civilian workplace is a major initiative for LATINA Style and its partners.

Moderated by Jeyben Castro, Deputy Director Office of D&I at U.S. HR, panelists included Ken Barrett, Chief Diversity Officer, General Motors; Kirsten Frey
Regional People Sr. Director, HR (Veteran & Chair of the SERVES ARG) Walmart; Mike Caraballo, SVP, Home Lending Product Strategy & Delivery, Wells Fargo & Company; and Tonee Bell, Fleet Service Agent, American Airlines

The fourth session “Highlight of Corporate Initiatives for Veterans,” focused on ways Walmart and corporate companies work with transitioning military, reserves, veterans and military spouses. Moderated by Jennifer Powell, Sr. Manager Corporate Affairs, Walmart, panelists included Mariah Webb, People Operations Lead Market 292, Walmart; Vanessa Avelar, Associate of the Military Pathways Development Program, JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Meredith Lozar, Head of Community Development & Government Relations for Military & Veterans Affairs, JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Cristina Nativi, Store Manager, Walmart.

The distinguished military service awards presentation luncheon recognized women serving in the Armed Forces. The awardees were honored for their service to our country, leadership, accomplishments, and commitment to building a strong community.

Keynote speakers during the luncheon were Gilbert Cisneros, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. Honorary Chair Remarks were provided by the Honorable Congressman Ruben Gallego. Opening Remarks were provided by Charmane S. Johnson, M.P.A., Director, DoD EEO, Special Emphasis and Outreach, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Office of the Under, Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Defense Human Resource Agency, Diversity Management Operations Center.

The Trailblazer Award was presented to Commandant Linda L. Fagan. The President’s Award was presented to Robert Bianchi, Rear Admiral, Supply Corps, U.S. Navy (Ret.) Chief Executive Officer, NEXCOM.

Armed Forces Color Guard, Presentation of the Colors & National Anthem.

Highlights of the luncheon included the presentation of the Colors & National Anthem was presented by the Armed Forces Color Guard.

U.S. Army: CPT Joana Migdalia Martinez; SFC Madelyne M. Rodriguez; MAJ Lynmarie Rivera Martinez. U.S. National Guard: SSG Reyna Ponce; MSG Thelma Barrios; Mrs. Neosensys Gottal. U.S. Air Force: Cadet First Class Shakira Colon Madera; Mrs. Desiree Aguilar; SrA Nicole A. Rodriguez Fernandez; SrA Alexis Sanchez; CPT Kimberly Lynn Monarrez Soltero. U.S. Navy: HM1 Sandra E. Guzman; LT Hailey Guerra; MIDN LCDR Amanda Gabriela Morales, US Naval Academy; MIDN 2/C Alondra Reyes, US Naval Academy; U.S. Marine Corps Awards, SSgt. Amanda A. Phelps, Designation; MSgt Carmen Christman, United States Marine Corps; Mrs. Dora M. Rodriguez, Designation, U.S. Coast Guard Awards; Petty Officer Johanna Polanco, Designation; LT Maria McElhaney, United States Coast Guard; Ms. Sheyla M. Matos, Designation; ENS/0-1 Olivia Gonzalez, Designation.

2022 Distinguished Military Service Awardees.

A special thanks to the NLS Committee: SMSgt Christian Johnson; CAPT Roy Love; LtCol Jose L. Montalvan, and Jeyben Castro.