LIFESTYLE

Our American Dream: From Television Executive to Decorated War Hero in Iraq

In all fields of endeavor, across the United States, Latinos are working to uphold their place in American society. Fox News Latino is proud to present "Our American Dream" – a series of snapshots and profiles of Latino success stories.

Otto Padron is Superman.

By day he works for a leading Spanish broadcast network, by night he flies through Florida’s night sky as a U.S. Army reserve officer. If that weren’t enough, he is marrying his leading lady --the TV star of the Mexican version of Ugly Betty, actress Angelica Vale -- all while going to school to complete his MBA.

On Presidents day in 2006, while sitting in his corner office of the Univision building in Miami, Padron, 47, was still trying to grasp his newest promotion to Senior Vice President of Programming for the network.

As he closed the door to his executive office behind him to toast the accomplishment with coworkers -- his cell phone rang.

He picked up. It was his Army reserve unit.

“Capt. Padron, we have good news and we have bad news,” the voice said on the other end. “The good news is you are being promoted to Major. The bad news is you are being promoted to Major in Iraq.”

In just two weeks time, he went from the confines of his executive office to the desert runway at Baghdad International Airport. Padron chose to accept the call for duty as part of the Iraq surge, putting his civilian career on hold.

“How do you tell your employer you are leaving in two and half weeks?”Padron said. “It was an amazing transition to make in a matter of 27 days,”

Padron, 47, has been in the Army reserves for 27 years, but his call up to Iraq was a life changing experience.

As the executive officer and an imbedded maneuver military advisor to the 2nd Iraqi Army Division in the Ninevah Province in Mosul, Major Padron and his team found themselves in harms way. An improvised explosive device, IED, detonated while he and his team were on patrol, blowing up the armored vehicle in front of his. The force of the explosion blew open Padron’s vehicle door while violently lifting the front of his vehicle.

Major Padron is an Infantryman and his actions to 'decisively seek and engage' the enemy in combat rate the CIB or Combat Infantryman Badge. An award given for his engagement against insurgent attacks and for leading his patrol to safety. He also received the Army Commendation Medal with a Valor device and Bronze Star for valor and galantry for his actions during an ambush at an Iraqi Police station, where he pushed his team forward and, despite the heavy fire, they escaped without injury.

“I have had an opportunity to represent both the Army and Latinos,” he said. “Since I first came to this country, I fell in love with the American dream and what it stood for. To have the opportunity to live and let live and to improve as much as your ability allows you to is what it’s all about.”

Major Padron was born in Cuba in the Matanzas Province.

“I was a street kid who played marbles and baseball,” Padron said. “I spent time on the countryside picking out mangos with my grandmother.”

Padron’s parents decided to leave Cuba for Madrid when he was about 8 years old. His mother, the teacher, and his father, the television engineer, had enough of the communist regime.

His mother looked out the window of their airplane bound for Spain with tears in her eyes. That day, she knew they were leaving their family for good.

“Look out the window son, this will be the last time you’ll see your homeland,” she told him.

They moved to the United States when Padron was 11. They struggled in Miami as his parents worked to support all three kids. 

Padron was born into a TV family. His dad, Tito, is a broadcast electrical engineer, and both his brother and sister work in the field. 

As a teenager, Padron followed his fathers natural path into the TV world. He started helping pull cables, doing audio and shading cameras. But eventually, he wanted more.

At 20, Padron began his military career.

“One day I said I didn’t want to be Tito’s son anymore,” he said. “I told myself I had to do something really dramatic to get off the path, so I sprung the military out of left field.”

He spent four years as an Army Airborne Ranger in the 75th Regiment and six as a Special Forces Guardsman. Traveling to countries like Honduras, Panama, Puerto Rico, Jordan, and Italy.

He is an XO in an Institutional Training Division (98th Div) and is an XO of an Initial Training Battalion . A TDA unit consisting of about 100 soldiers of which 60 are Drill Sgts.

He says the sergeants serve as the fingerprint, the first person and lasting impression for people that get off the block into the military.

Major Padron currently lives in Miami working on his MBA to remain competitive while continuing his more than 15 plus years in Broadcasting. He has two daughters and is scheduled to be married this Presidents Day weekend, coincidentally marking the four-year anniversary since he served in Iraq.

As for his military career, Padron wants to be a lieutenant colonel and says he will continue to serve as long as he can.

“Maybe one day I will march through the streets of Matanzas as an officer in military uniform,” he explained. “It’s a romantic thought, but I’ve always dreamt of liberating my hometown.”

If you know someone who should be featured in the Our American Dream series email us at bryan.llenas@foxnewslatino.com

Bryan Llenas currently serves as a New York-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). Click here for more information on Bryan Llenas. Follow him on Twitter @BryanLlenas.