Earlier this week, Boston unveiled the first public memorial honoring Puerto Rican veterans in the continental United States.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino dedicated the memorial Tuesday in a modest ceremony in the city's South End in front of a crowd of a little more than 100 people, including many veterans.
“The first Puerto Rican veterans monument in the whole country,” he said, according to the Boston Globe. “Today we honor our Puerto Rican veterans who have fought in every war in the history of this country. You know, we don’t say enough, thank you to the veterans.”
The monument depicts two soldiers, a male and female, and includes the following inscription: "La libertad no es gratis," or "Freedom is not free."
According to the Globe, the monument cost roughly $250,000 and took a 15-year effort by several local veterans to complete.
Since 1917, more than 200,000 American citizens from Puerto Rico have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, serving in every conflict since World War I, according to the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration. Currently more than 10,000 active duty military personnel from Puerto Rico serve across the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
But for years many Puerto Ricans and veterans feel their contributions have been overlooked.
Particularly, the story of the 65th Infantry Regiment Borinqueneers, which is one that can appeal to almost everyone. The legendary Borinqueneers, los Borinqueños, were the largest and longest-standing, segregated Latino-American military unit in U.S. history. Hailing from Puerto Rico, the Borinqueneers overwhelmingly distinguished themselves in service, sacrifice and heroism. They fought very bravely in WWI, WWII, and Korea, all the while enduring the additional hardships of segregation and discrimination.
Today, an all-volunteer, non-partisan, nationwide initiative called the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Alliance is dedicated to ensuring that the U.S. recognizes this unit and preserves the rich history of their truly unique and noteworthy service for future generations of Americans.