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Remembering Victims at Virginia Tech University and Honoring Hispanic World War II Veterans

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. BACA. Madam Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank our Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Veterans Affairs for addressing this important issue of those men and women who served during World War II, and that is our chairman, Ciro Rodriguez. It is important that people realize the contributions of many of our Hispanics who served during that period of time, that we are visible and that we were not invisible during that period of time and that we made many contributions to this country during that period of time.

So I rise today in honor of the over 500,000 Hispanics who bravely served our country during World War II with honor and with integrity and were proud to wear the uniform. And for those of us who wore that uniform, men and women who were willing to ultimately sacrifice for this country, it is an honor for us and our family members when we put on that uniform and fight for this country.

Madam Speaker, 65,000 Puerto Ricans also served during that period of time. Thirteen Medals of Honor were given out, 11 were Mexican American, two were Puerto Ricans. So when you can look at the contributions of these individuals and many others, as a veteran, I am proud of our heritage and our long history of continuing to fight for this country.

More Hispanics fought for this country's freedom and security during World War II, and I state that is an important fact to understand, and it is important that it be included in part of our history of the contributions that Hispanics have made. More Hispanics than any other minority group have served this country with distinction.

Just one example is Company E of the 141st Regiment of the 36th Texas Infantry Division. This company was made up entirely of Hispanics, bilingual individuals who were willing to serve for this country. After 361 days of combat in Italy and France, the 141st Infantry Regiment sustained 1,126 casualties, 5,000 wounded and more than 500 missing in action.

In recognizing their extended service and valor, the members of the 141st were awarded three Medals of Honor, 31 Distinguished Service Crosses, 12 Legions of Merit, 492 Silver Stars, 11 Soldier's Medals, and 1,685 Bronze Stars. We were, and are, visible and participated and gave our lives during World War II. And that is an important fact for many of our children and others to know the contributions of many of our men and women who served us, who sacrificed for this country.

Hispanic women also made a huge contribution to the American war effort. Madam Speaker, 200 Puertoriquenas served during the Women's Army Corps, which was one of the first service opportunities for women in American history.

Bilingual Hispanic women also worked in important positions within the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps in areas like communications and interpretation. They also worked as specialized bilingual nurses and logistics specialists all over the world, providing the United States military the services vital to the war effort and to this country.

Hispanic veterans have made huge contributions to American society after serving our country in this war.

Dr. Hector P. Garcia of Corpus Christi founded the American GI Forum in 1948 to advocate on behalf of veterans rights, and as our chairman indicated, many veterans who came back home, who served this country, were trying to buy homes and trying to receive the same benefits that many other individuals were given in this country but yet were denied those same rights, whether to buy a home, obtain a education, have the same rights as others. I know because I experienced the same thing when I returned back after serving this country and was trying to rent a home, and they would not rent to me, and of course, they rented to my wife. In doing so, the GI Forum became an important civil rights organization for Mexican Americans.

Another organization that came out of the World War II generation of Latinos was the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, in 1968. Mexican American World War II veterans, such as Pete Tijerina, Ed Idar and Albert Armendariz, came together to advocate for low-income Mexican Americans who needed fair treatment within the American legal system.

As a Hispanic, a veteran and as chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, I cannot tell you how humbled I am by the sacrifice of these brave men and women who came before me, who ultimately gave the sacrifice, who believed in this country and continue to believe in this country and will continue to fight for this country because we know it is an honor to serve for the United States and its principles and what it stands for.

I am particularly honored to know of a dear friend of mine who served during World War II, David Guerra Galvan, who recently passed away on March 23 when I went back to the district. He was born in my district and was a resident of Rialto, my hometown, for 50 years.

David served his country in the Army during World War II as a paratrooper and in the 101st Airborne Division. During his European tour, David was also transferred to the 82nd Airborne Division as part of a detachment for the personal protection of General Dwight Eisenhower. After his military service, David continued to serve his country as a data communications operator at Norton Air Force Base. He retired after 40 years of outstanding service to the Armed Forces in 1990.

David was a dear friend of mine, and he is a perfect example of the hundreds of thousands of veterans that we are honoring today who have served our country and will continue to serve our country.

David Galvan was a Hispanic, he was an American and a proud American, and he loved this country. He spent his entire life serving our Nation and his community and his family; as well as my brother Abilio Baca who served in the Armed Forces in the Army during the Korean conflict; as well as my brother-in-law, Ted Dominguez, who served during World War II.

I feel honored to have followed in David's footsteps by serving in the 101st and 82nd Airborne during my military service, and I thank him and I thank all of the many men and women who served during World War II. They are our heroes. They are our role models. They have paved the way for generations of proud Hispanics. They are the ones who ultimately paid the sacrifices so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we have here today because they were willing to step up to the plate. They stepped up to the plate and were willing to die for this country. That is why we have the freedoms that we have today, and we must not forget the legacy of what they have left for us. They have opened the door. They paved the way. They provided that for us. Let us remember those veterans who have served this country.


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