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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Memorial Day brings out commemoration, demands for an end to war, better treatment for veterans

As Gov. Pedro Pierluisi honored the memories of fallen Puerto Rican armed service members during a Memorial Day commemoration at the National Cemetery in Bayamón on Monday, Mothers Against War noted at a rally in San Juan that “more than 200,000 Puerto Rican soldiers have served in the U.S. armed forces since World War I. It is estimated that around 1,500 of those soldiers have lost their lives on battlefields around the world.”

By The Star Staff

The organization Mothers Against War, led by Sonia Santiago Hernández, commemorated Memorial Day in San Juan on Monday by honoring the Puerto Rican soldiers killed in U.S. wars and issued a call to action, urging authorities to improve treatment and mental health services for veterans.

In addition, the group advocated for an end to military involvement in armed conflict and asked young people to reconsider before signing a military contract.

“We will continue to demand that they be provided with the health services that the veterans [community] needs. We urge the youth not to sign a military contract. Let the troops return now! No more funds for wars,” Santiago Hernández said. “Although Puerto Rico has never declared war on any nation, more than 200,000 Puerto Rican soldiers have served in the U.S. armed forces since World War I. It is estimated that around 1,500 of those soldiers have lost their lives on battlefields around the world.”

At the National Cemetery in Bayamón, meanwhile, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia participated in acts commemorating Memorial Day on Monday under the motto, “Remembrance: Commitment, Service and Legacy.” The governor paid tribute to and honored Puerto Rico’s heroes, especially those who died in defense of the nation.

“It is a day of deep respect, gratitude and remembrance, in which our words come together in one voice to recognize the supreme sacrifice of those who took the oath to protect and serve, no matter the risk to their lives,” the governor said in a written statement. “However, this Memorial Day has an even more personal meaning for me. Just a few days ago, I had to say goodbye to my hero, to my example, to my father. My father served humbly and bravely as a lieutenant in the United States Army. Like so many of his peers and our … citizens who wear or have worn the military uniform of the United States, he never boasted of his service, because for him it was simply his duty.”

Pierluisi added that “his adherence and dedication to the fundamental principles of freedom, democracy and justice have taught me invaluable lessons throughout my life.”

The event was attended by the assistant to the director of national cemeteries, Marcos de Jesús; U.S. Army Survivor Outreach Services Manager Edwin Ramos Jourdan; Veterans Services Manager Melvin Granados; and the Veteran’s Attorney Agustín Montañez; as well as several elected officials.

“Today, on behalf of all Puerto Ricans, I reiterate my deep gratitude to those men and women who gave everything in the fulfillment of their patriotic duty,” Pierluisi said. “We know that our words will never be enough to compensate for the value of their sacrifices, to fill the void they have left, but we honor their memory by living according to the principles for which they fought. Every tomb and every grave in this cemetery is a tangible reminder that freedom and democracy are fragile and require constant effort and sacrifice to be preserved.”

The governor also recognized and thanked the families and loved ones who were also part of the sacrifice, as they had to say goodbye to a loved one in military service.

“Their burden is deep and their pain is incalculable, but it is important for them to know that Puerto Rico surrounds them with love and support every step of the way,” he said. “Their loved ones will live forever in our hearts and will always be remembered as the heroes they are.”

The governor noted that the only way to repay the debt owed to the men and women who fought for rights, freedoms and democracy is to “commemorate their sacrifices and follow their worthy example of courage and determination to protect the democratic principles we treasure.”

“Our rights and our democracy are an admirable heritage for which we still have to fight to defend them every day,” Pierluisi said. “As governor of Puerto Rico, I promise to continue working tirelessly to support our veterans, active military, and their families, to ensure that they receive the services they deserve and that they always have the recognition they have earned.”

Mothers Against War, meanwhile, highlighted several cases of Puerto Rican war veterans who, after their service, have faced severe mental health problems, often with tragic results.

The group questions the level of support and treatment offered by the Veterans Administration in Puerto Rico, suggesting that many veterans have not received the care they need.

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