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December 21, 2022
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James Fukuda, U.S. Navy Interim Assistant Secretary Robert D. Hogue, Rafaela Schwan - LULAC Interim Chief Operating Officer, Teri Caserta and Patrick Caserta - Co-Authors of the Brandon Act, Roman Palomares - LULAC Military and Government Affairs Chair, and Art Motta - LULAC Policy Director

Nation's Largest and Oldest Latino Civil Rights Organization Is Joined by Gold Star Parents, Teri, and Patrick Caserta for Talks on the Military Crisis

Washington, DC – The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) held the first of two meetings with the U.S. Navy, a landmark in the organization's 93-year history. LULAC was joined by the authors of the Brandon Act, which was signed by President Biden in December 2021 but has yet to be implemented. The law authorizes mental health resources for servicemembers without prior command approval or fear of retaliation. LULAC and the Brandon Caserta Foundation called for the meeting as deaths by suicide continue to spike in all U.S. military branches.

"We are here because we want to work with the military in saving our servicemembers' lives," said Roman Palomares, LULAC Military and Veterans Affairs Chair, in speaking with Robert D. Hogue, Acting Assistant Secretary in charge of Manpower and Reserve Affairs for the U.S. Department of the Navy. "The first step is to learn what the Navy is doing to prevent suicides. From our standpoint in the communities, we don't know. This is why many Latino families are afraid to let their children enlist in the military if they cannot be protected," added Palomares.

Teri and Patrick Caserta told the Navy leadership staff that their son Brandon Caserta died by suicide in June 2018 after suffering chronic bullying by toxic leadership. "Our son's death was murder-by-suicide within a Navy command that didn't care about him," said Patrick Caserta. "Despite that, we still love the Navy, and we are here because we want to make a difference," he added. Teri Caserta said she receives calls daily from military moms, wives, and families whose loved ones have died by suicide. "We are the frontline first responders and believe the best way to do that is by building awareness about services they can access, but the Navy must implement the Brandon Act. Our servicemen and women have to see that we care and that they matter," she said.

Rafaela Schwan, LULAC Interim Chief Operating Officer, told Hogue that the organization's councils across the United States and Puerto Rico offer a safe place for servicemembers in crisis to find support in familiar settings. "As parents, we all accept that joining the military means risk for our children at the hands of an enemy," said Schwan. "However, we cannot accept losing our sons and daughters here at home because we missed the danger signs or didn't know how to help them. LULAC is prepared to work with the Navy or on our own to ensure that our communities' loved ones are valued and protected," she added. The next meeting is scheduled for January between U.S. Navy Secretary Carlos del Toro and LULAC national president Domingo Garcia.

James Fukuda, LULAC national board member and vice-president for the northeast United States, said the military's challenge is aligning its practices with present-day youths exposed to a high-tech environment and a myriad of career choices. "The military can still be a very positive experience, but we must work together to develop new ways to attract youths and keep them engaged. LULAC is positioned to help the Navy do that," said Fukuda.


The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation's largest and oldest Hispanic civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC's programs, services, and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting the critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit https://lulac.org/