Skip to comments.Puerto Rico Legislature Honors Local Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans
Posted on 09/12/2008 9:29:33 AM PDT by rrstar96
[Puerto Rico's] legislators moved - chairs and all - to Roberto Clemente Coliseum to honor during a special session the Puerto Rican soldiers who fought in the United States war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Within the framework of the observance of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Popular Democratic Party (PPD) and New Progressive Party legislators held a special session in which they spoke for over an hour to the hundreds of soldiers and their families who arrived at the Coliseum. The main speech was given by San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini.
At a cost of $80,000 - not including the legislators' per diems - the interior of the Coliseum was turned into a chamber where the legislators' green and red chairs were put together. Of the money, $70,000 were used towards the purchase of medals for the soldiers. In front of a black curtain, the flags of Puerto Rico and the United States and the island's coat of arms were hung.
A huge wooden stand, in which Senate President Kenneth McClintock, House Speaker José Aponte, and other legislative officials sat, was also moved.
McClintock insisted to the press that moving this furniture was cheaper than renting chairs for the legislators to sit on. For his part, Aponte defended the payment of per diems to the legislators since he said this was an official event which was approved through a resolution.
The honorees - the soldiers and their families - filled the seats of the Coliseum. The event was coordinated to honor these soldiers with medals to be handed out by the Legislature. House and Senate ushers were present. Before entering, the guests had to go through metal detectors and were not allowed to bring umbrellas. The Municipality [of San Juan] reported that the use of the Coliseum was free due to an ordinance which permits this type of activity during the week.
Army Reservist José Díaz told the press that he is grateful for the gesture of honoring the soldiers, including those killed in action. "It was about time the soldiers who served were recognized," he said. "I am glad there were representatives of the political parties."
Neither Senator María de Lourdes Santiago nor Representative Víctor García San Inocencio [both with the Puerto Rican Independence Party] attended the event. "I think it's completely unnecessary. No one can be so naive as to fail to see this is an activity with ideological roots," Santiago said.
PPD Senator Eudaldo Báez Galib also questioned the activity's constitutionality since the Legislature was meeting outside the Capitol.
McClintock responded that this is not the first time the Senate meets outside the Capitol, and he pointed out that both legislators voted in favor of the resolution awarding these medals. For her part, Santiago said that she was absent the first time the resolution was voted on and, if she voted in favor the second time, it must have been a mistake.
"May the soldiers return"
Yesterday's speeches by the politicians recalled memories and summaries of what happened during the September 11 attacks.
PPD House Leader Héctor Ferrer made known his displeasure over the United States war in Iraq and the sending of Puerto Rican soldiers, of which more than 55 have died.
"Without meaning to offend or unappreciate, I believe it's time to ask the President to order the return of the troops. This is not to offend anyone," he said. He announced that his delegation will donate their earned per diems to organizations who aid service members and their families. For his part, McClintock said in his speech that the activity was not meant to "exalt" the war.
"Our mission today is for your veterans not to suffer from the indolence, abandonment, or rejection those from the Vietnamese conflict experienced," McClintock said. "Regardless of our opinion about the beginning, undertaking, or end of this war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the dedication of our Puerto Rican soldiers and the heroism on the battlefield must be celebrated."
In his speech, Aponte pointed out that only 3 states surpass Puerto Rico in the number of soldiers it has sent to this conflict. "I am sure we are engaged in a just and worthy struggle for peace," he said.
Not only a BIG THANKS to the people of Puerto Rico for making the sacrifice, but also our brothers and sisters from USVI, Guam and American Samoa as well.
God Speed to all of our brave men and women in uniform.
Thank you for that.