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Ann K.
Democrat AZ 1

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  • Recognizing Sergeant Mary Herrera, U.s. Marine Corps (Ret.)

    by Representative Ann Kirkpatrick

    Posted on 2013-12-10

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    KIRKPATRICK of arizona in the house of representatives Tuesday, December 10, 2013 Mrs. KIRKPATRICK. Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize Sergeant Mary Herrera, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), a brave young woman and member of the Arizona National Guard from my congressional district whose personal story of valor on the battlefield is truly inspirational. Her courage under enemy attack on November 8, 2003 on a routine mission in Iraq as part of the 855th Military Police Academy won her a Purple Heart.

    I am proud of Sgt. Herrera, who represents the best and brightest in not only my district and state of Arizona, which is home to over a half million veterans, but also in our nation.

    Thanks to her story and example, the state of Arizona passed a bill that authorized tuition waiver scholarships to National Guardsmen and women who received a Purple Heart or were medically discharged due to injuries while serving in the military after 9/11. The bill is known as the Mary Herrera bill. Now, Sgt. Herrera is a Field Representative of the West for the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes.

    The Coalition to Salute America's Heroes is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan organization, established in 2004 to provide severely wounded veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families with emergency financial assistance and other support services to help them recover from their injuries and rebuild their lives. All funds needed to develop and manage programs that advance its mission come from contributions to CSAH by individual citizens, corporate donors and foundations.

    According to Major General David Rataczak of the Arizona National Guard, Herrera is ``the bravest person he has ever met.'' He refers to Sgt. Herrera as a true example of a modern citizen-soldier who, despite being small in stature, is motivated, loyal, physically and mentally capable, disciplined and proficient, courageous and always a professional.

    Sgt. Herrera, who represents the changing demographic within U.S. armed forces, is dedicated to improving the lives of young veterans who are returning home from war. Last month, she represented our state in a high-level event hosted by CSAH in Washington, D.C., for members of Congress, staff and concerned citizens. The event focused on the serious challenge of homelessness facing young veterans, which is becoming a burgeoning crisis among female combat veterans.

    Under the leadership of President and CEO David Walker, the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes helps severely wounded veterans and families of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom in the state of Arizona and across the country to recover from their injuries and illnesses by providing emergency financial aid and other support services, in hopes that these veterans can transition successfully into civilian life. In addition, the Coalition's emergency aid services respond to trends associated with suicide among veterans (24 per day), a skyrocketing divorce rate (60 percent among actives), and growing domestic abuse.

    Recently, in my home state of Arizona, the Coalition awarded a $10,000 grant toward the construction of a multipurpose recreational facility designed to benefit long-term patients undergoing rehabilitation and other medical care at Prescott VA Hospital. In addition, it donated $5,000 to fund the design and construction of a bronze sculpture called ``Heroic Challenges'' (in the outdoor recreational facility at the hospital), which will depict a runner crossing the finish line with a look of determination on his face. The winner of this race, however, is distinguished by a prosthetic leg, a tracheotomy scar on his neck, several shrapnel wounds, and burn scars on one arm. Also, the Coalition donated a grant of nearly $5,000 to the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness to support the group's initiatives to provide housing for homeless veterans. The grant furnished approximately 60 housing units that will be occupied by veterans.

    We have not seen the total surge yet from Iraq and Afghanistan--and the women coming out of those conflicts are combat veterans who have the same issues the men have. The Coalition is working hard to address these challenges. In 2013 alone, the Coalition will have donated nearly $1 million in direct aid to veterans in addition to managing the many other CSAH programs that are available to wounded veterans (conferences, holiday gift checks, education and training, etc.).

    [[Page E1823]] On December 9-13, 2013, The Road to Recovery (R2R) Conference and Tribute is a four-day educational and motivational event for wounded veterans and their families designed to prepare them for the challenges in their lives that lie ahead.

    On behalf of the state of Arizona, and in particular, the First District of Arizona, I would like to offer my deepest admiration, respect and appreciation to Sgt. Herrera and the Coalition for their efforts to improve the lives of those who have fought and served our country with distinction. We owe Mary a debt of gratitude. She is an example to us all.


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