DAHLGREN, Va. - Jose Lugo looked out over a packed theater and thanked God for enabling him to work and share with everyone he served with in the Navy.
The senior engineer spoke to military, government civilians, and defense contractors celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month while reflecting on the 2017 theme: "Shaping the Bright Future of America."
First, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Commanding Officer Capt. Godfrey 'Gus' Weekes presented a certificate to Lugo recognizing his 30 years of government service.
“I want to thank all those who served as mentors throughout the years because without them I wouldn’t be who I am here today,” Lugo told the audience as he expressed his appreciation at the Sept. 28 event. “I would also like to point out that the Hispanic Association means a lot to me personally, and the organization means a lot to many people because it’s a tool for retention.”
Lugo - who served in a myriad of leadership positions and is currently the special projects officer at the command's Combat Systems Enterprise Test and Evaluation Division - was a founding leader of the NSWCDD Hispanic Association and continues to be a resource for those seeking a mentor or simply a word of advice.
“Be open to the possibilities, seek support, be a life-long learner, unleash your potential, be a change master, build coalitions, and don't be afraid of taking risks to achieve your goals,” are top level words of advice from Lugo. “Take time to re-charge yourself, celebrate your achievements, and never forget to give back to those that make them possible, your family, your co-workers, your friends, and your community."
Lugo has been a mentor to many at Dahlgren, including Hispanics traveling long distance in their transition to Dahlgren.
“There are many challenges as Hispanics come to this part of the country where we are so isolated, even though in the past 30 years I’ve seen it grow,” said Lugo. “As we celebrate this Heritage Month, I want you all to remember that in order to shape the bright future of America, each one of us has to be a point of light. We have to brighten the day of everybody around us and we have to inspire those who follow us, and in doing so we will improve our future. I don’t believe in 80 percent. I believe in doing the best that we can as a friend, as a co-worker, as a community member and as a Hispanic. The next time you see a Hispanic around you, you can shake a hand and say you welcome diversity.”
Weekes, in his remarks, spoke about the impact of Hispanics upon the Navy and its diversity, citing Lugo’s work at Dahlgren and Adm. David Farragut’s impact as the Hispanic Sailor who devoted a remarkable 59 years of his life to naval service.
The NSWCDD commanding officer reflected on how Farragut’s naval career and immortal words – "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" – has been important to his own naval career.
“Admiral David Farragut – whose father was a native of Spain – was the very first person to achieve the rank of Admiral in 1864,” said Weekes. “He confronted the last Confederate stronghold in the Gulf of Mexico, Mobile Bay, leading the armada to a decisive victory.”
Farragut went on to support the Union campaign at Vicksburg and was instrumental in the success of securing the Mississippi River fort, Port Hudson, from the Confederates. Two Navy destroyers are named for him as well as Farragut Square in Washington, D.C.
Weekes also highlighted the contributions of Seaman Philip Bazaar. “He was the first Hispanic Congressional Medal of Honor recipient for his Navy service,” said the NSWCDD commanding officer. “Seaman Bazaar was aboard the USS Santiago de Cuba, which assaulted a Confederate stronghold during the Civil War. He successfully maintained communication between the ship and crew on land.”
In the Navy, more than 50,000 Hispanic Sailors serve alongside approximately 16,000 Hispanic civilians; 55 million people (or 17 percent of the American population) are of Hispanic or Latino origin.
Hispanic Americans, like Adm. Farragut, have had a lasting impact on our history. Annually, Americans observe Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 to honor the histories, cultures and contributions of U.S. citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America.
“Our country has always drawn strength from the diversity of our people,” said Weekes. “Let’s continue to acknowledge and celebrate the positive influence of Hispanic Americans on shaping the bright future of our nation.”
The event’s keynote speaker, Lance Carrington – who retired from the Senior Executive Service (SES) after serving in that capacity as a special agent for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Postal Service –– encouraged the audience to pray for the residents of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island and its infrastructure, and to pray for those living in Texas, the Gulf Coast, and Florida who are recovering from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
He recounted his life and career which included service in the Army as a reserve chief warrant officer four. He retired from the Army reserves on Oct. 1, 2017 after more than 35 years of active duty, National Guard, and reserve service.
Carrington told the audience that he experienced subtle discrimination while growing up in south Texas which cropped up again as he ascended into the higher ranks of government civilian service.
The discrimination, however, didn’t stop Carrington who remained “thankful and humble” as his mother taught him while growing up. “You have to take chances, you have to move,” said the tenth Hispanic SES in the United States, “and I used the SES position to make changes,” which included increased diversity at NASA.
“Hispanics come from all walks of life, all backgrounds and cultures – that’s what makes it so exciting,” said Carrington. “The most important thing I can say about Hispanics is the passion Hispanics have for life, for work, for anything they get involved in.”
For more than nine years, Carrington – who grew up on Air Force bases in Texas, Japan and Panama while his father served as a career U.S. Air Force non-commissioned officer – volunteered with his wife, Rosario, at the Catholic Diocese of Arlington’s Guadalupe Free Clinic in Colonial Beach, Va. Carrington assumed duties as the clinic’s executive director, and his wife as the clinic’s administrative coordinator, in July 2017. Founded in May 2004, the clinic serves the indigent and medically-uninsured population in Westmoreland County and Colonial Beach, on the Northern Neck of Virginia.