Puerto Rican veterans fighting for recognition

Yawu Miller | 7/6/2011, 11:52 a.m.
Vietnam veterans Jaime Rodriguez and Tony Molina are planning a memorial for Puerto Rican war veterans in the South End. The plaque between the men, dedicated to the all-Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment, was the first memorial to Puerto Rican veterans in the United States. Yawu Miller

Rodriguez said it was the efforts of African American Vietnam vets like Ralph Cooper, Ernest Washington, Ernest Branch and Ron Armstrong that helped get services for Vietnam vets in Boston.

“It was because of Ron Armstrong that I became involved in veterans issues,” he comments.

Rodriguez went on to serve as a special assistant to the Office of Veterans Services of Massachusetts and research director at the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences at UMass Boston.

Molina founded a radio station and newspaper that served the Puerto Rican community in Boston and also organized the Puerto Rican Festival. For both of them, the lack of recognition for Puerto Rican veterans remained a sore spot.

Molina and Rodriguez plan to raise $300,000 for the memorial, which will incorporate the existing plaque dedicated to the 65th Regiment.

“There has been a lot of discrimination against us,” Rodriguez says. “People don’t recognize us as a people who have been fighting for the freedom of this country. We want to leave a legacy so that 100 years from now, people will know we gave our lives for this country. We know there’s no other way people will know about us.”