"Puerto Rico's contribution to the national
defense has been noteworthy, and in some cases
decisive, as in
the Korean War. I believe that Puerto Rico has done for this nation
more than its share."
"No ethnic group has greater pride in itself
and its heritage than the Puerto Rican people. Nor have I encountered
any that can be more dedicated and zealous in support of the democratic
principles for which the United States stands. Many Puerto Ricans have
fought to the death to uphold them."
Puerto Rico is the proud home of a number of important military heroes, including four recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. In fact, the Puerto Rican contribution to the U.S. military has not been a small one. 197,100 Puerto Ricans have served as combatants; 6,220 have been wounded; and 1,225 have been killed in the service of their country. Puerto Ricans have served in every major conflict of the 20th Century.
Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients
About the Congressional Medal of Honor
The Congressional Medal of Honor has been awarded 3,428 times in the history of the United States. The recipients are military persons who are recognized as conspicuously distinguishing themselves at the risk of their lives "above and beyond the call of duty." The deed for which the person is recognized must have been one of personal bravery or self-sacrifice. It must clearly distinguish the individual above his comrades and must have involved the risk of life. In fact, many of those who receive the award have lost their lives in the very act that qualified them for recognition.
Throughout the years, the Medal of Honor has become increasingly more difficult to earn and the esteem given its recipients has dramatically increased. President Harry S. Truman said, "I would rather have that medal than be president of the United States," and General George S. Patton said, "I'd give my soul for that decoration."
About the Four Puerto Rican Recipients
Fernando Luis Garcia
"His great personal valor and cool decision in the face of almost certain death sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country."
On September 5, 1952, Private first class Garcia was named the recipient of this prestigious award for his service in the Korean War -- the first of four Puerto Ricans to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. In addition to that distinction, Camp Garcia, on the island of Vieques, was named after him.
Fernando Luis Garcia was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico, on October 14, 1929, and joined the United States Marines in San Juan. Garcia was involved in several hostile conflicts during his service as a marine. He earned his medal of honor when he chose without hesitation to sacrifice himself by throwing his body on a grenande that had landed near his colleagues. His Congressional Medal of Honor Citation tells the story of a young marine in the Korean War whose valor was not limited to this single act of bravery. As a Puerto Rican, he didn't question his place among "American" soldiers. This "American" simply lived in such a way that his death would be honored by the country for which he so bravely gave his life.
"Captain Rubio's singularly heroic act turned the tide of the battle, and his extraordinary leadership and valor were a magnificent inspiration to his men."
Born March 1, 1938 in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Euripedes Rubio enlisted in the US Army at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, and rose to the rank of Captain in the 1st Battalion, of the 28th Infantry.
Rubio's tremendous sacrifice occurred in November of 1966. Although he himself suffered three serious wounds as part of an intensive fire fight, he was helping to evacuate other wounded personnel when he discovered a smoke grenade had fallen too close to friendly lines. In preparation for friendly airstrikes, the smoke grenades were used to mark the Viet Cong position. Captain Rubio intended to avert an unnecessary tragedy and ran to reposition the grenade. He was immediately "struck to his knees" by enemy fire. Despite his many wounds, he grabbed the grenade, lumbering through the deadly onslaught of enemy gunfire, and made it to within 20 meters of the enemy position. Hurling the already smoking grenade into the midst of the enemy, he fell for the final time. His death made a difference. The hostile position was destroyed because the friendly air strikes were able to use the repositioned grenade as a marker.
Carlos James Lozada, born in Caguas, Puerto Rico, is remembered for his bravery while serving as private first class during the battle of Dak To, Vietnam, in 1967. The act that merited Carlos James Lozada the Medal of Honor began at 2:00 p.m., on November 20, 1967.
His "heavy and accurate" machinegun fire completely disrupted a North Vietnamese attack on his company's position. He ignored his comrade's pleas for him to withdraw and fired on the enemy as they continued their brutal assault. Lozada was unwilling to abandon his position because he knew there would be nothing to hold back the enemy and the entire company would have been jeopardized. He shouted for his fellow soldiers to retreat and planned to stay and provide cover for them. It wasn't until he was mortally wounded that he ceased his continuous delivery of heavy suppressive fire against the enemy and he had to be carried during the withdrawal. Lozada died Monday, November 20, 1967, at the age of 21.
"His heroic self-sacrifice saved the lives of those who occupied the foxhole with him and provided them with the inspiration to continue fighting until they had forced the enemy to retreat from the perimeter."
Specialist Fourth Class Hector Santiago-Colón was born in Salinas, Puerto Rico. The short life he led has left a permanent positive imprint on his hometown. Born in the midst of the Second World War, December 20, 1942, he sacrificed his life on June 28, 1968, at the age of 25, to save the lives of those who fought beside him in the Vietnam War.
Santiago-Colón's bravery was well documented. When heavy automatic enemy fire sprayed from the woods around his position, Santiago-Colón, along with the other members of his position, immediately began to repel the attackers, utilizing hand grenades, antipersonnel mines and small-arms fire. They were caught off guard when a North Vietnamese soldier crawled close enough to their position to lob a hand grenade into their foxhole. Santiago-Colón grabbed the grenade, tucked it in to his stomach and turning away from his comrades, absorbed the full impact of the blast.
Other Heroic Individuals and Groups
"I wish we had more like them," said Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
Of all those who served with honor and distinction in Korea, few displayed the courage, loyalty, and determination of the 65th Infantry Regiment of Puerto Rico. From its inception in 1899 until 1950, the regiment had been relegated to minor roles. In Korea, the men of the 65th had their first chance to prove themselves to the skeptics of the U.S. military establishment, and they made the most of the opportunity. Over the course of the war, the 65th Infantry Regiment participated in nine major campaigns and played a decisive role in several crucial battles. Because of their courageous efforts, the 65th Infantry received a Presidential Unit Citation, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and two Republic of Korea Unit Citations.
Major Gen. Luis Raúl Esteves
Major Gen. Luis Raúl Esteves was the first Puerto Rican to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. More than 50 members of his famous class of 1915 made general, including one, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who also made president. Esteves was instrumental in organizing the Puerto Rican National Guard.
Admiral Horacio Rivero, Jr.
Although he passed on in September, 2000, Admiral Horacio Rivero, Jr., the Honorary Chairman of the Veterans' Committee, continues to inspire and motivate Puerto Ricans from all walks of life. Born in Ponce in 1910, Admiral Rivero attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and served in World War II. In 1964, he was the first Puerto Rican, indeed the first Hispanic American, to be elevated to the rank of Four-Star Admiral. He went on to become Vice Chief of Naval Operations and, after retiring in 1972, U.S. Ambassador to Spain.