In the military, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. David Soto learned to have pride in self and pride in service. As a Vietnam veteran, he is committed to giving back to veterans and to his community of Bloomington.
In recognition of his many contributions -- from helping to create a veterans' monument to organizing a Santa at the Park toy drive, Soto was recognized as 2011 62nd Assembly District Veteran of the Year at Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter's Fourth Annual Veterans Appreciation Reception on May 12. About 225 guests attended the event at the Colonel Joseph C. Rodriguez Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8737 in San Bernardino.
"It is a well-deserved honor," said District 62 Assembly Member Carter, who nominated Soto and will join him at a recognition ceremony at the State Capitol on June 22.
"He exemplifies the twin values of service and sacrifice that are so deeply ingrained in those who have served in the military."
Soto served in the U.S. Marines from 1972 to 1975 and the Reserves from 1974 to 1975.
Today, he organizes memorial services in honor of local veterans. He also spearheaded the Bloomington Community Boosters fundraising campaign to erect an eight-foot monument at Ayala Park in Bloomington.
In Bloomington, he helps organize parades, a 600-Christmas stocking distribution at "Santa at the Park" and an Adopt-A-Family program, where 50 families receive holiday food. Soto and a team of 15 volunteers distribute presents to the Women's Shelter. He also coordinates with the Colton Joint Unified School District to provide food and new winter coats to homeless children.
"Restoring the pride of Bloomington is our motto," Soto said. "I get a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment if I can make a difference for someone and put a smile on the kids' faces."
Other Veterans of the Year Honorees are: Lance Cpl. Damon Alexander, U.S Marines, San Bernardino; Army Sgt. Justin Breen, K9 Unit, Rialto Police Department; Spc. Artist Gilbert, U.S. Army, Rialto; Spc. Army National Guard Spc. Fourth Class Larry Hatton, San Bernardino; Spc. Mike Payne, U.S. Army, Colton; Master Sgt. David Presley, U.S. Air Force, San Bernardino; and Petty Officer Third Class Darlene Toole, U.S. Navy, Fontana.
Honorable mention and special recognitions were: Army Sgt. Antonio Rodriguez, Sgt. First Class Rudolph Guzman, Staff Sgt. Michael Blaz, California Army National Guard - 185th Armor CAB, Linda Umberg, Inland Empire Veterans Collaborative, Paul Adkins, Riverside National Cemetery Support Committee, Judi Cruz, Student Veterans of California State University, San Bernardino, and Celeste Williams, National Association of Black Military Women.
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