SHE ALSO SERVES: CALTRANS EMPLOYEE HONORED FOR WORK WITH VETERANS
Rachel Duran follows her heart to serve those who served their country.
A soft spot for veterans has brought both recognition and satisfaction to Maintenance Agreements Associate Rachel Duran, who has been nominated for a Woman of the Year Award.
She was nominated by Congresswoman Grace Napolitano to receive the award, along with about 40 other women in the Congresswoman’s District (38th). Candidates are brought forward by local groups and then Representative Napolitano nominates those she considers the most deserving. Duran was recognized for her work with veterans in the City of Pico Rivera, where she lives.
As secretary of the Pico Rivera Veterans’ Council, which represents all the veterans groups in the city, Duran organizes the annual Memorial Day and Veterans Day events, which are very large and well-attended. Duran handles publicity and media, recruits speakers, coordinates logistics and “whatever else it takes,” she said.
All of the nominees were invited to a luncheon sponsored by Congresswoman Napolitano at the Sheraton Hotel in Pomona on Saturday, April 14. Duran’s grown children accompanied her. Her two daughters and son-in-law also work for the Department: Jacque Aragon, an Assistant Caltrans Administrator with South Region Surveys; Cynthia Ellick, a Regional Administrative Officer with District 8 Maintenance; and Jason Ellick, with District 7 Special Crews. “We’re kind of a Caltrans family,” said Duran, who celebrated 25 years with the State this year.
“It was so great to have my kids there,” she added. When she was recognized recently for her nomination at a Pico Rivera City Council meeting, even her grandchildren were able to attend. This was extremely important to Duran because “you want to be a role model for your kids—your daughters, especially.”
Duran’s involvement with veterans began with her father, who served with the Army in World War II. She recalled that, as a child, it was a big honor among her brothers and sisters to wear his military jacket. Carrying on the family tradition, her son, David, joined the Marines in 1982.
“I’ve just always had a special place for veterans,” she said. “I feel we have to make sure our city doesn’t forget them.” There are, sadly, many to remember. Pico Rivera lost 26 servicemen in Vietnam, one of the largest numbers of any city in the United States. Thirty years ago, the city built its own monument to the service members who died in combat, including World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War and, most recently, two names were added from Iraq and Afghanistan.
As far as becoming Woman of the Year, Duran, like many awards candidates before her, said “it’s an honor just to be nominated.” What really matters to her is the cause. “You find your goal in life and what’s important to you and veterans have always been important to me.”