Picha named one of Alejo’s veterans of the year

30th District Assemmbly Member Luis Alejo speaks in 2014 during the South Valley Legislative Summit at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Assemblyman Luis Alejo has named his veterans of the year, including Robert Picha from Hollister, according to a statement from his office.
According to the full statement:
Today, Assemblymember Luis A. Alejo (D-Salinas) announced five Veteran of the Year award recipients. Recipients were chosen based on their exemplary military service, community service, and support for veterans in the community. Each Veteran of the Year will be recognized during various Veterans Day celebrations throughout the 30th Assembly District on Veterans Day, Wednesday November 11th.
“Our veterans risk their lives to protect American values and our freedoms,” states Alejo. “My father served during the Vietnam War and it is a privilege to honor and pay tribute to him and our veterans for their service to our great nation. This year I am honored to recognize Hazel M. Tompkins of Monterey County, Richard C. Villarreal of Monterey County, Robert Picha of San Benito County, Bobby Quance of Santa Clara County, and Todd McFarren of Santa Cruz County, as the 2015 Veteran of the Year award recipients.”
Of the several entries received, Alejo has chosen the following five veterans for their exemplary service:
Hazel M. Tompkins of Monterey County, U.S. Army 1963 – 1966
Hazel M. Tompkins of Salinas was 28 years old when she enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1963. Soon after, she was sent to Fort McClellan in Alabama for basic training. Upon completion, she was given her first assignment which was to attend and complete communications school where she was trained to be a switchboard operator. After completing communications school she was stationed at Fort Ritchie in Maryland, then received orders from Washington D.C. which sent her to Paris. Despite the mental, physical, and character building challenges, Hazel has continued to maintain a sense of humor throughout her military career. She received the National Defense Service Medal for her honorable military service. Additionally, Hazel is a past member of the American Legion.
Richard C. Villarreal of Monterey County, U.S. Army 1966 – 1968
Richard C. Villarreal was born in Edinburg, Texas in 1946. He moved to California when he was a child and with little education he decided to join the U.S. Army. He served in Vietnam, where he was wounded in combat. Later, he was awarded the Purple Heart award for his actions. After serving in the U.S. Army, he returned to the Salinas Valley, where he worked as a tractor driver. Richard is currently retired, and he lives with his wife in Greenfield.
Robert Picha of San Benito County, U.S. Army 1966 – 1969
Robert Picha, a lifelong resident of Hollister, was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1966 and served until 1969. During that time, he served as a medic and Pharmacy MOS with the 25th Medical Unit, where he provided support for the 101st Airborne and 1st Cavalry, amongst others during the Vietnam War. Robert is also an Adjutant for the San Juan Bautista Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6359. In 2011, he formed the “Agent Orange Brotherhood/Sisterhood” which raises funds to pay for granite memorial tiles in memory of those who have passed on. Families and the community at large appreciate Robert for his time and generosity in assuring their names are not forgotten. Robert is the father of four children and dedicates himself to their success in life. He is a former LULAC Veteran of the Year.
Bobby Quance of Santa Clara County, U.S. Navy 2004 – 2011
Bobby Quance is a resident of Morgan Hill, and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 2004. He was commended multiple times for saving lives under fire in Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion 5th regiment. Bobby received the Medal of Valor for his superior performance of duties while serving as corpsman for Scout Sniper Platoon in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The 3rd Battalion 5th regiment suffered the most casualties in seven months than any other unit in the war. Out of 27 core-men, 17 received the Purple Heart award. Bobby currently works at Strategic Operations, teaching combat medicine and advanced medical procedures to the U.S. Military.
Todd McFarren of Santa Cruz County, U.S. Marines 1969 – 1970
Todd McFarren a resident of Watsonville served with the Second Battalion, Eleventh Marines, First Marine Division in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. Initially assigned as a radio operator attached to the First Battalion, Fifth Marines, he displayed outstanding initiative and perseverance, despite the extremely adverse conditions and difficulties associated with a combat environment. With his consistently high level of efficiency, he enhanced the operational effectiveness of his command and gained the respect and admiration of all who associated with him. While located at a forward observation post during January and February of 1970, he repeatedly distinguished himself by his courage and composure under fire, as he skillfully directed fire missions for his unit. Todd also served as Mayor of Watsonville for two terms from 1990 to 1992.
Luis Alejo represents the 30th District in the California State Assembly, which consists of the Salinas Valley, Monterey County, San Benito County, South Santa Clara County and the city of Watsonville in Santa Cruz County.


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