By Marc McCormickDecember 31, 2008
FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico -- Fort Buchanan and the municipality of San Juan celebrated Veterans' Day with joint ceremonies November 13 and 14.
Hosted by the Puerto Rico Departmento de La Familia y La Comunidad, the first event was held at the San Juan Municipal Building. The event was an opportunity to recognize the Veteran of the Year - Luis A. Arroyo, president, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands Federation Chapter 0252 (the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association).
Fort Buchanan Commanding Officer Col. Edwin C. Domingo addressed the crowd saying, "Whether in war or peace, Soldiers have passed through the ranks of the United States Army in service to their country and look back on that experience with a sense of pride. Veterans never seem to lose the deep seated pride that comes from serving our great nation. Veterans represent all of you who have served in all our nation's conflicts. They symbolize the total dedication, the bravery, the toils and sacrifices that so many men and women have undergone to defend our principles of democracy and freedom."
San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini-Padilla was the guest speaker for the event. The mayor presented Arroyo with the recognition award as the Veteran of the year following his comments about the significance of veterans to Puerto Rico.
Following his speech, Mayor Santini and Col. Domingo displayed a recently signed Army Community Covenant between the municipality and the garrison, which underscores the importance of supporting all Soldiers and veterans.
The Antilles High School Chorus provided the anthems for the United States and Puerto Rico in addition to entertaining the audience following the official ceremonies. The Color Guard of the 65th Infantry Regiment performed the honors of opening and closing the ceremony with the posting of the colors.
The following day the Departmento de La Familia y La Comunidad hosted another veterans recognition with a ceremony at American Legion Post 113 in BayamAfA3n. The event featured guest speaker Col. (Ret.) HAfActor Cordero Vega. Vega was a prisoner of war during the Korean Conflict.
In his presentation, he described his three year ordeal and what it was like to be a Soldier during that time and a Puerto Rican serving in the conflict. Vega returned from Korea and worked in the Judge Advocate Corps and retired from active duty later serving as a federal judge in Puerto Rico. He is still highly regarded for his service and patriotism by all islanders and is considered a hero of Puerto Rico and is a shining example of Puerto Rican veterans.
Mayor Santini also attended this event and spoke glowingly of the contributions men such as Vega made in service to the country and Puerto Rico. Following his remarks, Vega presented Santini with an MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) - the newest version of what were known as C & K Rations.
Col. Edwin C. Domingo also addressed the assembly reinforcing his remarks from the prior event saying, "Veterans have handed us the precious gift of freedom. Today, we remember the sacrifices made by the men and women in the armed forces who have served a great cause. These men and women follow a great tradition, handed down from generation to generation, especially in the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, where, even dating back to the Spanish conquest, any family we meet will proudly boast of having at least one military member among them."
Members of Air Force ROTC Detachment 755, University of Puerto Rico Piedras Campus, performed a silent ceremony indicating the respect and tradition of the empty chair and table at the ceremony. It is a tradition, which explains the missing Servicemembers who have made the ultimate sacrifice throughout our country's history. A narrator explained the symbolism of each object at the table. A bugler, from Fort Buchanan's Honor detail, played taps at the end. The Buchanan Honor Detail provides the solemn escort of fallen Soldiers who are returned to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean for internment.