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The Orlando Sentinel

Hispanic Achievers Honors Veterans, Unveils Memorial


August 27, 2000
Copyright © 2000 The Orlando Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

Hispanic Achievers had a large reception Thursday honoring Puerto Rican war veterans and unveiling a replica of a memorial being created to honor those soldiers.

The event at a Banco Popular branch on South Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando was to honor Puerto Rican soldiers' long history of military service to the United States, said Daniel Ramos, president of Hispanic Achievers.

The affair also kicked off a fund-raising campaign for a local memorial honoring Puerto Rican war veterans. Puerto Rican servicemen have fought in every American war or conflict since World War I.

"Puerto Rican veterans were drafted. They've fought for America since the First World War," Ramos said. "We're not immigrants."

The memorial, a proposed 12-foot-high bronze sculpture, will show a fallen soldier wrapped in American and Puerto Rican flags and carried by an angel. Orange City artist Felix Velez will sculpt the piece.

People who want to help create the memorial can make donations at local Banco Popular branches. About $108,000 is needed, and Ramos expects to reach that goal in six months.

Ultimately, Ramos and other organizers hope to have identical memorials placed in Orlando, New York City, San Juan and Chicago.

Jay Rosario, owner of Rolling Hills Ford in Clermont, spoke to the more than 100 assembled at Banco Popular. Rosario has financed posters, fliers and brochures publicizing the local campaign.

Rosario said it is important to note that Puerto Ricans have made significant contributions to this country long before celebrities such as Ricky Martin hit the scene.

"The reality is Hispanics, particularly Puerto Ricans, have played a tremendous role in this country's growth and its wars," Rosario said. "We want to recognize our veterans."

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