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Emanuela P. Leaf
Editor’s Note: The American Dream Veteran of the Year Award aims to recognize immigrants 17 years or older who are serving or have served in the military, have made the commitment to defend our country before becoming a U.S. citizen and have faced many challenges along their journey to achieve their American Dream. In this award category, two finalists have been selected and they have received two tickets to attend the gala. On the eve of May 16, one winner will be revealed and will receive a $3,000 award and the American Dream Awards statue, and have his or her name permanently displayed on a plaque in Danbury City Hall honoring Tribuna’s American Dream Awards.
Below is a snapshot of the stories of our 2015 American Dream Veteran of the Year finalists.
Carlos Mora Jr.
Carlos Mora, Jr. was born in Distrito Federal, Mexico in 1984. He came to the United States when he was two-and-a-half years old. His mother enrolled him at the Head Start School in Danbury at age four. That was when some of his first barriers to overcome began. Language was one of the biggest obstacles. However, Carlos did his best to adapt to this country but discrimination and prejudice were always present in some shape or form in his future years of study.
When he completed the fifth grade, Carlos and his mother moved to the Eden Drive neighborhood of the Housing Authority Complexes.
“There were drugs and violence in that neighborhood. Carlos, who was always kind and compassionate, stood out from other children. As an adolescent, he was always fighting for just causes, always competing inadvertently to obtain a place in society without falling prey to vices or crimes,” said his mother Gloria in her letter nominating Carlos for the award.
He graduated from Henry Abbott Tech and he was named group captain of the cross-country team at school. He was also crowned prom king for his excellent cooperation with the other kids at school.
Unfortunately, when Carlos wanted to attend college, another barrier emerged because of his legal status, but he did not give up. He went on to attend Norwalk Community College, commuting almost every day.
For the next two years, working during the day and studying at night, Carlos managed to earn his associate’s degree.
After becoming a resident, and with his constant belief in justice and sovereignty for this country, he decided to join the U.S. Marines Corps.
This was very emotional because he had accomplished many important goals as a Marine.
He remained two years in the Japanese base with the Motor T group, where he was promoted to Lance Corporal. He was also stationed in South Korea. When he returned, he was promoted to Corporal. Because of his skills, Carlos was proudly named to represent the State of Connecticut at a major event in Japan. Currently, he is at the base of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, undergoing special training before he is transferred to the Mediterranean Sea in September on a new mission. He will come home later this month after his training.
Last April 13, he paused his training to attend a very special occasion and finally become a U.S. citizen. “He has had a desire to represent the Latino community with dignity and respect in all parts of the world where he has been or will be deployed,” wrote his mother.
Maria C. Alves
Maria was seven years old when she came to the United States from Brazil in 1986. Her parents separated when she was very young and around 1982, her father moved to the United States.
Like many other immigrants that come to this nation, she did not speak English. In 1986, she started to attend public school and with the help of the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking priests, she was able to begin to understand English. She continued to struggle with the language and was motivated to learn it on her own.
She graduated from high school in 1997 and joined the United States Army Reserves, where she served eight years.
“She joined the military because she believes in the American dream and felt that this was a good way to give back and start a new life experience. She never deployed to any major conflict but in these eight years of service she was able and willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for her new nation,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Al Almeida.
With her parents not having resources to send her to school, the Army Reserves provided her with an opportunity to attend college. She received numerous awards and citations during her eight years of service.
“I’m very proud of Maria’s achievement, as she was one of my subordinate soldiers during the period of 1999-2002. Living every day knowing her personal and family struggles, she continues to achieve excellence by raising her two wonderful children. In her eyes, she believes she is living the American dream that so many of us strive to achieve,” Almeida stated, adding, “Maria Alves is a great Patriot, Citizen and a Mother that continues to mentor her two children on what the American Dream is all about.”