WASHINGTON, D.C. –
In September 2021, Legalman 1st Class Lorena Morales received a LATINA Style Distinguished Military Service Award at the 18th Annual National LATINA Symposium. Morales currently serves as a paralegal in the Legal Assistance Office at Region Legal Service Office (RLSO) Southwest’s branch office in Lemoore, Calif.
The 2021 virtual symposium celebrated the achievements of Latina professional working women, entrepreneurs, and the military. It is an annual event – hosted by LATINA Style Inc. and Parents Step Ahead – that provides a national platform for Latina professionals to address the most urgent issues affecting Hispanic professional women across the country. The Honorable Carlos Del Toro, the 78th Secretary of the Navy, was the symposium’s featured speaker.
“I can honestly say I was completely shocked by the news that I had received this prestigious award, and I never imagined being recognized with such a meaningful honor,” said Morales. “I would like to credit every single mentor that has guided me throughout my career, especially my chiefs and my judge advocates, who have taught me so much in such a short period of time. I would also like to credit my husband, who, no matter what, supports me through every decision I make.”
Morales enlisted in the Navy approximately a year after graduating from high school – on March 3, 2008 – and she knew almost immediately she wanted to make it a career. After completing rigorous training, Morales reported for duty to Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., where she served as a consolidated automated support system technician for Fleet Readiness Center West. Following her tour in Lemoore, she reported to Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 43 in San Diego, Calif. where she completed a Western Pacific deployment.
In 2012, Morales headed to Fleet Readiness Center Southwest for her first shore duty tour, and, in April 2014, she transferred to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 41. There, she seized an opportunity to cross-rate to the legalman rating, officially converting in September 2017.
Morales attended Naval Justice School in 2018 graduated from Roger Williams University with honors. She subsequently transferred to the RLSO Southwest branch office in Lemoore, Calif. She was recognized as the command’s Sailor of the Year in 2020.
The nomination for Morales’ LATINA Style Distinguished Military Service Award includes the following details: “During the COVID-19 pandemic – coupled with the unanticipated impact to USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and Commander, Carrier Strike Group Nine (CCSG-9) – Morales was selected to deploy to the Fifth and Seventh Fleets. At the last minute, her mission changed to deploy with CCSG-11 as the flag legalman. She immediately pivoted focus and departed for this assignment despite the significant impact to her [family] … Her leadership and flexibility ensured superior support to CCSG-11.”
In Lemoore, Morales also serves as the Victim Witness Assistance Coordinator and is a member of the Command Resilience Team. She is the RLSO Southwest Leading Petty Officer for offices in Lemoore, Monterey, Calif., and Fallon, Nev.
Her LATINA Style Distinguished Military Service Award has motivated Morales to be an even more impactful role model, especially to her children.
“Now, I want to show my daughters and sons that I am more than just a mother and wife, I am also a proud United States Sailor,” Morales said. “I want to show my children that resiliency comes from within, and anything they want to be, they can be, with dedication and a lot of motivation.”
As a Latina, Morales said: “Family has always been an important part of my culture.” She credited her Navy family for supporting her professional efforts to serve as a role model, leader, and mentor at every duty station.
“I have had to create a family everywhere I go,” Morales explained. “These new family members have been the ones who have filled that void while being away. They have been the ones to pick up my children from school when I have stayed late at work. They have been the ones who have invited us to Thanksgiving dinner and became that temporary family we needed at the time.”
“Without all of these people in my life, I wouldn’t have received this award,” Morales added. “I am thankful every day for the opportunity to show Latinas that breaking our culture’s norms does not have to be a negative thing. We are able to maintain a family and still do what we love.”