The City of Cleveland celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month and local trail blazers on Sept. 13, 2012 at the Cleveland City Hall Rotunda. Organized by the Community Relations Board and Hispanic liaison to the Mayor, Lucy Torres, the event drew more than 300 guests. Honored for their life-long service to the community were Angelo J. Morales and Henry Guzmán, both shared their stories and legacies of hard work and values their respective immigrant parents instilled in them.
Morales served as the first Latino Deputy Chief of Police in the City of Cleveland after an extensive career in the US Army, serving during the Vietnam Campaign, and later as a military policeman. During his 26 years with the Cleveland Police Department he ascended through the ranks from patrol officer to detective, lieutenant, captain, commander and finally Chief of Deputy Police.
Emotional, Morales fought back tears as he thanked his family for their support and recognized the men and women he served with. “I don’t think you realize the value of this to me being present here today,” he said.
Morales made a commitment to be a diligent, work as hard and as fast as he could. He recalled one of the first incidents he reported to, a young child electrocuted while his wheelchair ridden father stood helpless out of the door because it was too small.
His leadership set a tone or responsibility and accountability through all ranks; “This is how you change the culture of a large organization.” He said his legacy is a result of many opportunities that were available to him, “I embraced all of them.”
Harold Pretel, Commander of Homeland Security, served under Morales and lauded his service and leadership, “Chief, you were one of those giants, and not just because you’re tall, on whose shoulders the rest of us were able to stand on.”
Henry Guzmán, a native of Villiaba, Puerto Rico who arrived in Youngstown, Ohio at age five with his mother and siblings to join their father who relocated years earlier to work at the steel mills. He attributes the early household chores of shoveling coal into the furnace in the winter for creating a work ethic that nurtured his career.
Guzmán retired as the Director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, a position he was appointed to by former Gov. Ted Strickland in 2007. Guzmán advised the governor and staff on issues relating to the Ohio State Patrol, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, Emergency Medical Services, the Ohio Investigative Unit, criminal justice services, administration, and the Ohio Traffic Safety Office. He earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for valor for his service in the Vietnam Campaign with the 101st Airborne Division.
He credited his father for instilling the value of education, learning English and U.S. patriotism. “My secret weapon for learning the language [English] were comic books, because they had a story that drew me in,” Guzmán said. He admitted to struggling in school and often leaving during the day only to be dragged back by his father.
When the draft letter arrived he enlisted and volunteered for an extra year of service, “Because I was told I would be treated better.” Taking a moment of silence to honor the men and women in service Guzmán said the realities of war shifted his appreciation of life, and surviving with the help of his mother’s devotional prayers renewed his commitment to service.
Entertainment for the afternoon was provided by Sammy De León & His Orchestra, and TANGOme Dance Ensemble.