Honoring Puerto Rico's Military Tradition | Puerto Rico 51st

General Bernardo de Gálvez, Governor of Louisiana, led troops in support of the American colonies in the Revolutionary War. His soldiers included men from Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rican soldiers served in the Civil War, too, but were listed as Spaniards, since Puerto Rico was at that time a colony of Spain.

World Wars

In 1917, Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship. There is a myth that this was done in order to draft Puerto Ricans for World War I. In fact, presidents from Teddy Roosevelt on spoke up for citizenship for Puerto Rico, the War Office proposed it in 1909, and Puerto Rico’s governor had requested citizenship for the Island. Historians are clear that the decision to offer citizenship was a matter of politics, not military expedience.

However, at least 18,000 Puerto Ricans served in the U.S. Army in World War I. In fact, the first U.S. shot of World War I was fired by Army Lt. Teofilo Marxuach at El Morro Castle.

65,000 Puerto Ricans served in World War II. This included women. Puerto Rican soldiers participated in combat in World War II, which they had not done in the First World War.

The Borinqueneers

The famed Borinqueneers began as a volunteer regiment in Puerto Rico in 1899, and saw combat for the first time in World War II.

They gave distinguished service during the Korean War. The regiment continued until the Army stopped segregation, at which point the Borinqueneers were transferred to the National Guard. The regiment received the Congressional Gold Medal from President Barack Obama in 2016.

More recent conflicts

48,000 Puerto Ricans served in the Vietnam War, 10,000 in the Gulf War, and 38,000 in Iraq. At least 375,000 Puerto Ricans are either in active service or veterans of the U.S. military. 20-29% of Puerto Ricans serve or have served in the military, a higher proportion than any state.

And yet Puerto Ricans, including veterans and active service members, do not have the right to vote for their Commander in Chief. Statehood will fix this obvious unfairness. On Memorial Day, remember those who gave their lives for their country and consider asking your congressional reps to honor their memories by supporting  The Puerto Rico Status Act.

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One response

  1. Thank you to our veterans / active military and their families.
    Always and forever!

    A Nation’s Strength
    William Ralph Emerson

    What makes a nation’s pillars high
    And its foundations strong?
    What makes it mighty to defy
    The foes that round it throng?

    It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
    Go down in battle shock;
    Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
    Not on abiding rock.

    Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
    Of empires passed away;
    The blood has turned their stones to rust,
    Their glory to decay.

    And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
    Has seemed to nations sweet;
    But God has struck its luster down
    In ashes at his feet.

    Not gold but only men can make
    A people great and strong;
    Men who for truth and honor’s sake
    Stand fast and suffer long.

    Brave men who work while others sleep,
    Who dare while others fly…
    They build a nation’s pillars deep
    And lift them to the sky.

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