CHICAGO — During Veterans Day week, Puerto Rican U.S. veteransincluding a Purple Heart and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient as well as Chicago Alds. Milly Santiago ( 31st ), a former Army Reservist, and Gilbert Villegas ( 36th ), a former Marine and chair of the City Council's Latino and Veteran caucusesjoined community allies Thursday morning at Federal Plaza.
They gathered to honor all who have served in America's armed forces and support our fellow U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico who remain in urgent need of aid nearly two months after Hurricane Maria.
"Don't forget Puerto Rico," said Corporal ‹Tomas Lozada, a Korean War veteran ‹who was part of the 65th Infantry Regiment Borinqueneers of Puerto Rico and is a Purple Heart and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. "We served the United States, and they are supposed to serve us."
The group demanded that the federal government provide sufficient hurricane relief to Puerto Rico and eliminate the island's $73 billion debt load, which has burdened Puerto Rican families for years and is holding back hurricane recovery efforts.
"It's frustrating that in this day and age, 50 days later, that Puerto Rico is still without electricity, still without portable water, and people are leaving the island in droves to come to the mainland," Ald. Villegas said.
"We want to tell our dear President Trump that Puerto Rico needs more than paper towels," Ald. Santiago added.
Vamos4PR, a coalition of community, labor and civil rights organizations fighting for a fair economy for all Puerto Ricans, organized Chicago's action and similar events throughout the week in at least three other cities, including Boston, New York and Hartford, Conn.
The coalition believes Puerto Rico's humanitarian crisis shouldn't be ignored or made worse by big banks seeking payouts. It's time to eliminate Puerto Rico's crippling public debt altogether.
BACKGROUND: There are 330,000 U.S. veterans and 35,000 active duty U.S. military personnel from Puerto Rico. Since the Korean War, 1,119 Puerto Ricans have died serving the United States. Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens for more than 100 years. They pay federal taxes such as Social Security and Medicare. The federal government has the same responsibilities toward them as other U.S. citizens.