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Puerto Rico Profile: Congressional Medal of Honor
Recipient Fernando Luis Garcia
August 27, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
article is the first in a series of four profiles on Puerto Ricans
who have been recognized by the most distinguished award offered
to military service personnel by the United States government.
When the grenade landed near the two young marines, Fernando Luis
Garcia didn't even stop to think about the implications of what
he was doing. He "unhesitatingly chose to sacrifice himself
and immediately threw his body upon the missile, receiving the
full impact of the explosion." His Congressional Medal of
Honor Citation tells the story of a young soldier in the Korean
War whose valor was not limited to this single act of bravery.
As a Puerto Rican, he didn't question his place among "American"
soldiers. This "American" simply lived in such a way
that his death would be honored by the country for which he so
bravely gave his life.
The Congressional Medal of Honor has been awarded 3,428 times
in the history of the United States. The Medal of Honor is awarded
by the President of the United States on behalf of Congress. The
recipients are military persons who are recognized as conspicuously
distinguishing themselves at the risk of their lives "above
and beyond the call of duty." With gallantry, they have been
engaged in actions against an enemy of the United States. The
deed for which the person is recognized must have been one of
personal bravery or self-sacrifice. It must clearly distinguish
the individual above his comrades and must have involved the risk
of life. In fact, many of those who receive the award have lost
their lives in the very act that qualified them for recognition.
Incontestable proof of the act of service is gathered and each
recommendation for the award is held to a strict standard of extraordinary
On September 5, 1952, Private first class Garcia was named
the recipient of this prestigious award for his service in the
Korean War -- the first of four Puerto Ricans to be awarded the
Congressional Medal of Honor.
Fernando Luis Garcia was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico, on October
14, 1929, and joined the United States Marines in San Juan. Joining
the marines was not something new for many Puerto Ricans and the
Puerto Rican contribution to the U.S. military has not been a
small one. 197,100 Puerto Ricans have served as combatants; 6,220
have been wounded; and 1,225 have been killed in the service of
their country. Puerto Ricans have served in every major conflict
of this century.
Garcia was involved in several hostile conflicts during his
service as a marine. His citation described the night of intense
fighting where Garcia proved himself not only as a good soldier,
but as a humanitarian as well. He was involved in the defense
of a combat outpost one mile inside enemy lines. During a hostile
attack by the enemy force, grenades, mortars and artillery rained
down on the soldiers. Despite his wounds, Garcia made his way
through the intense hail of hostile fire to secure the supply
point of hand-grenades.
He was recognized in his Medal of Honor Citation for his patriotism:
"His great personal valor and cool decision in the face of
almost certain death sustain and enhance the finest traditions
of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his