One of the striking things about Puerto Rico is the high level of military service in the U.S. territory. Particularly when in light of the fact that residents of Puerto Rico cannot take part in presidential elections, it is noteworthy that so many Puerto Ricans have volunteered to serve in their Commander in Chief.
One Puerto Rican veteran living in Florida, Joe Rodriguez, recently had the excitement of a phone call from President Obama inviting him to today’s award ceremony at the White House. Rodriguez, 73, will accept the honor on behalf of his uncle, Miguel Vera, who lost his life in the Korean War.
Vera led a charge up Old Baldy and covered the subsequent retreat of forces in 1952. According to his nephew, Vera was being carried off the field of battle on a stretcher when, seeing that the other soldiers were losing heart, he jumped off the stretcher and returned to the battle. He led his comrades back into the fray and then, when they again retreated, covered that retreat and saved many lives.
Rodriquez credits his uncle’s heroism for encouraging him to go into the armed forces himself. He served in the Marines during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and still celebrates the founding day of the Marines each year.
Vera, along with 23 other veterans, will receive recognition as a result of a decade-long review of military records in search of individuals who should have received the National Medal of Honor, but did not “because of prejudice,” according to a White House Statement.
Proud to be American, but still a Boricua.