Rep. Pedro Pierluisi spoke at Ft. Belvoir Wednesday to commemorate Hispanic Heritage month. His remarks began with an acknowledgement and expression of gratitude for all the members of the armed forces and the medical professionals who care for them.
Pierluisi continued with thoughts on the particular place of Hispanics in the armed forces. “It has always seemed to me, he said, “that the modern military is the most relentlessly egalitarian of American institutions… Perhaps it is because your mission—defending our nation from its adversaries—is so vital.”
Rep. Pierluisi shared some statistics on Latinos in the military:
Precisely because the military is the ultimate meritocracy, it comes as no surprise to me that Hispanics are participating in significant numbers—and excelling—in the Army, the Air Force, the Navy and the Marine Corps—on active duty, in the reserves, and in the national guard. According to the Department of Defense, Latinos constitute over 11 percent of all active-duty military forces. In 2011, nearly 17 percent of all new recruits were Hispanic, a three point increase from 2005, and this number is expected to increase further in the coming years.
He then turned to the specific subject of Puerto Rico, pointing out that “Despite not being able to vote for their commander-in-chief, residents of Puerto Rico have served in the U.S. armed forces in every conflict since World War I.” He spoke about the 65th Infantry Regiment, known as the Borinqueneers, and their continued struggle to receive the Congressional Gold Medal for their service.
Pierluisi finished with a story set in Alaska, far from Puerto Rico. He told of how his legislative aide recently visited Ft. Greely, a very remote and very cold outpost north of Fairbanks, where temperatures average 20 degrees below zero in the winter. When his aide reported that Puerto Rican MPs were the most well represented of all the states and territories, “I can tell you,” he said, “that my aide almost burst with pride upon seeing and hearing all this.”
Puerto Rico’s sons and daughters in uniform have traveled thousands of miles to Alaska, traded tostones for reindeer meat, and shorts for long underwear, all to perform this critical mission for our nation. That is dedication. And it epitomizes the contributions that hundreds of thousands of Latinos are making to our national defense every single day
We share Rep. Pierluisi’s pride in the service of Puerto Ricans in the military.
Read the full text of the speech.