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NEWS | June 1, 2023

Remembering the fallen: Puerto Rican Medal of Honor recipients

By Sgt. 1st Class Deziree Lau 99th Readiness Division

”On this solemn occasion, we gather in remembrance of the brave men and women who have selflessly given their lives in service to our nation,” said Maj. Axel A. Acosta, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 99th Readiness Division, during the annual Memorial Ceremony paying homage to Medal of Honor recipients of Puerto Rican heritage at the Medal of Honor Grove here.

“Throughout the history of the U.S., Puerto Ricans have made significant contributions to our Armed Forces, standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow service members in defense of our freedom and democracy,” he continued. “Their courage and sacrifice is forever marked on our nation’s history and it is only fitting that we take a moment to remember and celebrate these extraordinary achievements.”

Since 1978, Latin American Legion Post 840 and Auxiliary Unit 840 have held this ceremony to remember, recognize and honor Puerto Rico’s Medal of Honor recipients.
Unveiled on Aug. 3, 1977, the Puerto Rico Medal of Honor Obelisk is adorned with the Seal of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the names of four Puerto Rican MOH recipients. To date, the number of Puerto Ricans awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously has risen to nine.

“Among the nine we are here to remember, one such individual deserving of our utmost respect is Pvt. 1st Class Fernando Luis Garcia, born October 14, 1929, in Utuado, Puerto Rico. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps, is the only Marine on and the first of the nine Puerto Rican Medal of Honor recipients to be recognized on the shrine we stand before,” Acosta shared.

Garcia served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, distinguishing himself during combat operations at an outpost in the Bunker Hill area. On Sept. 5,1952, he was killed in action jumping on an enemy grenade to save the lives of his fellow Marines. On Oct. 25, 1953, Garcia was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“In the face of overwhelming odds, Garcia’s bravery saved and exemplified the true spirit of a Medal of Honor recipient,” continued Acosta. “Another Puerto Rican hero I’d like to speak of today is U.S. Army Master Sgt. Juan E. Negron born Sept. 26, 1929, in Corozal, Puerto Rico. On April 28, 1951, during the Korean War, amidst intense heavy enemy fire he single handedly held the company’s right flank throughout the night during enemy attack.”

Negron held the most vulnerable position and refused to leave his post while his company withdrew.

“Despite sustaining serious injuries, Negron’s unwavering dedication to his comrades and indomitable spirit defied his actions that day,” Acosta said. “His heroism serves as an inspiration to all.”

Following the Korean War, Negron returned to the U.S. and retired after serving 23 years in the U.S. Army. He died on March 29, 1996, in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. On March 18, 2014, Negron was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack H. Obama.

“These are just two examples of the nine recipients of the Medal of Honor from Puerto Rico…throughout history. Each of these men have demonstrated unmatched bravery, determination and the commitment tied to the ideals upon which our great nation is founded,” Acosta exclaimed.

“It reminds us that heroism knows no boundaries and that the call to serve transcends any cultural or geographic device,” he continued. “We remember these courageous individuals today, and let us not forget the sacrifices made by our families and loved ones. The support they provide, the strength they show and the prayers they offer remind us of the true cost of war and the resiliency of the human spirit. To the families that are here today, thank you.”

Memorial Day is known worldwide for honoring and mourning all military personnel who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. It is also a day of reflection and remembrance.

“On this Memorial Day, we honor the Puerto Rican recipients of the Medal of Honor, recognizing their extraordinary valor, unwavering commitment and selfless service. Let us remember their courage and draw inspiration from their remarkable feats. May their stories serve as a constant reminder of the courage, resilience and indomitable spirit that define our great nation,” Acosta concluded.