Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Sept. 19, 2019 —
Editor’s Note: The Defense Logistics Agency recognizes Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. In honor of Hispanics’ contributions to the agency’s global mission, DLA is highlighting Hispanic Americans who work daily to provide logistics support to America’s warfighters.
My name is: Elsie Valdes
I am: A protocol specialist in the DLA Headquarters Protocol and Special Events Office, Office of the Director
Describe your job in a sentence: Protocol is the glue that holds the agency together and we are the face of the agency.
How long have you worked at DLA? I have worked at DLA since September 2005. Before joining DLA, I worked for the Army Materiel Command for 20 years.
What is your favorite thing about working for DLA? DLA has supported my family since I have family members who have served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. But my favorite thing about working for DLA is the fact that employees also play a huge part in disaster relief and humanitarian aid. My family members have been personally affected by devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico, New York and Florida. It makes me feel proud to know I work for an agency that helped my family when they needed it most.
What are your best memories of working here? My best memories are the lifelong friendships and contacts that I’ve made throughout my career here at DLA. DLA became family after I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. The caring emails, cards and many phone calls really touched me and my family on a personal level. I wasn’t just an employee of a huge agency, but a valued member of great team that does so many good things.
How do you make a difference? I make a difference by always providing excellent protocol support with a friendly smile, positive attitude and by treating everyone with respect and importance, regardless of rank. I always strive to make each and every event better than the next. I’m a perfectionist especially where correct protocol etiquette and procedures are critical to setting a positive image for DLA.
What is one thing you'd like others to know about your heritage? Being Latina and celebrating my Hispanic heritage is very important to me. It’s more than just waving the beautiful Puerto Rican flag at festivals or dancing to great music any chance I get; it’s what keeps me grounded and motivates me to work hard and set an example for my children and grandchildren. I was born to a teen mother in Santurce, Puerto Rico, and spent my early years in a slum village known as "El Fanguito," or roughly translated, "the little mud hole." I am no stranger to hardship and quickly learned that you have to work hard to get what you want.
My Grandmother Filin had a big part in raising me, along with many of my aunts and uncles who were also close in age. She and my mother, Maria, are two of the strongest women I know. They instilled the values and morals that helped me become the strong Latina woman I am today. Despite my hardships and humble beginnings, my life was also filled with laughter, endless family parties with great food, a lot of dancing, and a strong love for life and appreciation for everything I have.
Why is it important to you that we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month? It’s important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month because diversity and culture should always be celebrated. It’s what this beautiful country is made of. If you take a look at history, you will find endless information about Latin leaders, poets, artists, musicians, etc. who helped shape the world we now live in. I think this is something to celebrate and I will always be proud to be a strong, successful Latina. I look forward to leaving my mark on this world and acting as a role model not only for my daughter and granddaughters, but for all young Latina women!