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NEWS | Nov. 9, 2023

Different generations of veterans gather at Fort Buchanan

By Carlos Cuebas U.S. Army Garrison Fort Buchanan

Hundreds of veterans from different parts of the island gathered Nov. 8 at Fort Buchanan, home of the United States Army in the Caribbean, to participate in an appreciation event for those who have served in the armed forces.

The event included an information fair from several government organizations to make it easier for the veteran community on the island to be informed about their benefits. Concurrently, Army Reserve Soldiers raised dozens of American flags in the names of several veterans to honor their sacrifice.

Col. Charles N. Moulton, commander of the only Army base in the Caribbean, addressed those present.

"Today, we honor you, the brave men and women from all walks of life who have stepped forward to defend our nation. Regardless of what military branch you served in, this day belongs to you. You have kept us free, returned home from deployments, and continued to serve in many ways. Veterans have earned our eternal gratitude; Americans should never forget your sacrifices. I hope you find this event useful and can benefit from it," Moulton said.

Maria G. Bentinck, deputy director of the United States Army military retirement office at the Pentagon, traveled from Washington, DC, to participate in the activity.

"The title of Soldier does not disappear when you retire. One of the ways to continue serving is to inspire the next generations to serve in uniform. You may also consider joining the Army Chief of Staff's retiree council. This is a forum to express your concerns as veterans and have them addressed at the national level," Bentinck said, explaining that there is an open call for new members to the national retiree council.

Orlando Vázquez Agosto, a Vietnam veteran and recipient of a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart, was one of the many participants.

"I wish more veterans could attend this type of activity. There is a lot of information here for veterans about benefits that many don't know about. Before, we didn't have as much access to information. I recommend all veterans to participate. Do not stay home. Look for information," said Vázquez Agosto, who was in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968.

Members of a new generation of veterans from Puerto Rico also participated in the activity. Carlos Robles Álvarez, an Afghanistan veteran, was one of them.

"It is important that all veterans be honored, especially those from older generations. They are part of our history and paved the way for us to serve today. There are veterans of different generations, and the Army has had to adapt and have looked for ways to convey information in different ways. I think it should continue to be done," said Robles Álvarez, who currently works as a Budget Analyst at Fort Buchanan.

Another veteran present was Edgardo J. Marrero, who recently retired from the Army Reserve, with over 27 years of service and deployments to Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

"My message to the youth is that the armed forces help you have a better quality of life and open many doors of opportunity. For example, service in the Army Reserve is a good alternative for young people who want to serve at the federal level, stay on the island, and continue studying," said Marrero, the grandson of a World War I veteran.

Puerto Ricans began serving in the United States Army in 1899 with the creation of the Puerto Rican Volunteer Battalion. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans have been recruited or volunteered to serve in all branches of the armed forces.

Fort Buchanan serves a diverse military community of approximately 15,000 active duty, Reserve and National Guard military, Marine Corps Reserve, and Navy Operational Support Center.

The military installation also offers critical services to the Department of Defense civilian population, veterans, retirees, and their families, as well as more than 30 federal agencies in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.