YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. -- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District employee Ernesto Elias, a supervisory construction representative at the Yuma Proving Ground Project Office, took part in a five-person panel discussion held to celebrate Hispanic contributions to the Nation and to share their stories Sept. 22 at the Cactus Café here.
"Helping people is important to me," said Elias. Whether mitigating floods, building barracks or providing temporary lodging, "At the end of every construction project, there are people waiting to get in there."
Elias' willingness to help people led to his involvement in disaster relief, first with the Bureau of Reclamation and since 2004 with Corps' Response Teams in support of FEMA under the National Incident Management System. He has responded to numerous disasters during his three decades of Federal service.
"My story is, yes there were challenges, I've been challenged," added Elias. "I've been called out because of my race, I've had people who would not cooperate with me because of my color. I've had it and I let it go by, because, what's more important is getting the job done."
This year's National Hispanic Heritage Month theme is Embracing, Enriching and Enabling America. President Obama, in his proclamation lauds Hispanics for their influence on our society, "With faith and passion, a sturdy work ethic and profound devotion to family, Hispanics have helped carry forward our legacy as a vibrant beacon of opportunity for all."