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Puerto Rico on Veteran’s Day

The first official U.S. military battalion in Puerto Rico was established in 1899. The Battalion of Puerto Rico Volunteers provided local security and was brought into the U.S. regular Army in 1908.

But this was not the first time soldiers from Puerto Rico supported the U.S. military. There were Puerto Ricans fighting with the Americans in the American Revolution. Under Bernardo de Galvez, Governor of Louisiana, Puerto Ricans joined a diverse group of soldiers and sailors in support of the colonists in 1776.

The names and the total number of individuals supporting the U.S. in this campaign are lost to history. In 2013, the first individual Puerto Rican soldier in the U.S. Army was identified and honored. This man was Augusto Rodriguez, a San Juan-born resident of Connecticut. Rodriguez defended Washington, D.C. in the Civil War and received the Army Civil War Campaign Medal.

18,000 Puerto Ricans served in World War I, shortly after the territory received U.S. Citizenship. While the first wave of volunteers were not accepted, both men and women were soon joining the military in large numbers.

60,000 Puerto Ricans joined the U.S. military in World War II.

65,000 men and women from Puerto Rico served in the Korean War. Many joined the 65th U.S. Army Infantry Regiment, the Borinqueneers. This unit grew out of the original Battalion of Volunteers. The highly-decorated Borinqueneers received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2016.

48,000 Puerto Ricans served in Vietnam, including three members of the first Women Army Corps, sent to Vietnam in 1967.

It is estimated that 35,000 Puerto Ricans are currently in active service. There are 330,000 living veterans, two-thirds of whom live in the States. Veterans in Puerto Rico receive significantly less in federal benefits than those living in the States.

Active service members and veterans living in Puerto Rico cannot vote in presidential elections. While their fellow soldiers can file absentee ballots when stationed abroad, Puerto Ricans serving in the military cannot vote for their Commander in Chief.

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