FORT CARSON, Colo. - Phil Martinez credits his mother for the wisdom that has evolved him from the boy growing up in a poor East Los Angeles suburb to being the president of his own company.
"She taught me early on that hard work, dedication and being extremely passionate in life was a good attitude that would take you places," he told attendees at the Fort Carson Hispanic Heritage Month Observance Oct. 19 at Elkhorn Conference Center.
The event's guest speaker shared his life story to include the challenges his family faced while living in the mostly Latino community of Cudahy, Calif., where the median income of males was $19,000 a year and about 35 percent of the children lived well below the poverty line. His parents moved the family to Southern Colorado in hopes of providing a better life for their two children.
Martinez shared that his childhood years in Colorado were filled with memories of losing
their home due to the inability to pay the rent, growing up in the welfare system and living on food stamps while his mother cleaned office buildings at night just trying to make ends meet.
Today, Martinez serves as the program manager of the Fort Carson USO and is president and chief executive officer of PM Productions, Inc., but he hasn't forgotten his roots.
During an interview following the observance, he recalled being asked to change his name in the late 1980s while working the midnight to 6 a.m. shift on a country radio station.
"Back then there were no Hispanics in country radio," he said.
Martinez noted he was approached by the general manager and program director who tried to be persuasive by saying it was common for people to have on-air radio names.
"I said, 'Absolutely not ... that's who I am.'"
The Hispanic Heritage Observance featured remarks by Martinez and Maj. Gen. David G. Perkins, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson commanding general, performances by the Raices PanameAfA+-as dance group and singer and songwriter Jose Manuel and concluded with an ethnic food sampling to include tacos, enchiladas, rice and beans.
Martinez said Hispanics have achieved success in all fields, highlighting the accomplishments of activist CAfAsar ChAfA!vez who co-founded what today is known as the United Farm Workers and Sonia Sotomayor, who in 2009 became the first Hispanic to serve as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.
He closed his remarks saying his mother's profound and simple guidance created a road map for his success.
"My mother's message was clear: don't spend time worrying or anticipating, it's really nonproductive," Martinez said. "Good stuff and bad stuff will come in its own time, just learn to deal with it."
Perkins said the ethnic observances provide the Army an opportunity to reflect on the fact that, like America, it truly is a melting pot.
"We bring together the best of everybody, the best of all the cultures, the best of all the heritages and ... the whole is greater than the sum of its parts," he said.
Perkins said he has been deployed to war-torn communities across the globe, many where differences in religions, races or cultures were the precipitating factors driving the war. Then the Army shows up, not to conquer that land but to bring democracy and freedom to its citizens.
"When they look at the ranks of the U.S. Army they see every ethnic background; they see every cultural heritage; they see just about every kind of combination of cultures, languages, religious backgrounds. So they see not only are we there to fight for their freedom and liberty ... but we come as a force representative, really, of the entire world."
"(We are a) great example to them of how when you cooperate you can produce a country of peace and prosperity like our nation enjoys. So we are a living example of what we are trying to do in different parts of the world," he said.