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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Let’s honor our veterans

A man kneels while visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington on Memorial Day, May 31, 2021. (Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times)

By Gregorio Igartúa

Special to The Star

Today is a unique national day. It is Memorial Day, a federal holiday. It is time to remember, honor and mourn all veterans who died while in the military defending our liberty, our freedom, and our democracy. Another day to celebrate those who have served or are serving in the military is Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

The usual observance on Memorial Day is the decoration of military graves with U.S. flags. It is so special to all of us that there is hardly a family in the nation that doesn’t have a relative to some degree or a close friend who has died in war. In my case, I have both.

As a relative, I remember on this day my first cousin, Lt. Ralph Church de la Rosa. He was my mother‘s nephew, and he was named after my father. He died in Japan of shell fragment wounds sustained while on a combat operation in Vietnam. He was assigned to the 101 First Airborne Division and was a qualified ranger.

I remember today, as a close friend, Luis Monroig from Quebradillas. For a few years, we had lunch together daily as students at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez. He was a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (commonly known by its initials ROTC). He also died in Vietnam.

Both of their names are engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. There are thousands of names on the wall of the monument. Ironically, when I visited the memorial, the first name I recognized was the name of my cousin Ralph Church, and very near to his name was that of Luis Monroig. Tears came out of my eyes. Their lives were not lost in vain. Their lives were the real source of the essential spiritual reasons needed to support the survival of others in humanity.

I want to show them my respect, admiration, and prayers on this special day, a flower for them in my heart. This is a special day reserved by our government to remember the memory of all those who sacrificed their lives for others, as my cousin and friend did. We cannot forget it is Memorial Day, a day to remember the special people we love.

Gregorio Igartúa is an advocate of statehood for Puerto Rico and a lawyer.

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