Memorial Day is a special day set aside to honor and remember those who gave their lives in military service. Men and women from Puerto Rico have participated in every U.S. conflict since the Revolutionary War.
Bernardo de Galvez, named Governor of Louisiana in 1777, supported the British Colonists during the Revolutionary War with an army which included Puerto Ricans. Puerto Rico was at that time a colony of Spain.
Puerto Rican soldiers served in the Civil War, too. Often identified as Spanish, Puerto Ricans living in the States joined the Union Army against the secessionists from the South.
Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States in 1898, and Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States, a status which the Island still has. In 1917, the United States gave U.S. citizenship to everyone born in Puerto Rico.
In July of 1917, 236,000 Puerto Ricans registered for the draft. Some 20,000 served in World War I. The first American shot of the war was ordered by Teofilo Marxuach, the Officer of the Day at El Morro Castle.
Puerto Rican soldiers were sent to defend the Panama Canal Zone, and the Puerto Rico National Guard was established.
About 65,000 Puerto Rican men and women served during World War II. Women included medical personnel like Dr. Dolores Mercedes Piñero and numerous nurses.
61,000 Puerto Ricans served in the Korean War, and 3,540 lost their lives. The Borinqueneers, a regiment that was organized before Puerto Ricans gained U.S. citizenship, was later honored for their role in the conflict.
48,000 Puerto Ricans served in all branches of the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. More joined in the Gulf War, and more than 10,000 men and women from Puerto Rico are currently on active duty.
Puerto Rico has sent a higher proportion of her sons and daughters to serve in the U.S. military than most states. On Memorial Day, we honor the men and women of Puerto Rico who have served alongside their comrades from the States for more than a century.