Borinqueneers Deserve Their Gold Medals

By Rafael Collazo, Director of Political Campaigns, NCLR

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Borinqueneers Coat of Arms Photo: Wikipedia

Veterans’ Day is a special day on the calendar for me.  It brings to mind the amazing lives of my two abuelos:  Alfredo Gonzalez and Rafael Collazo.  Both men grew up with modest means in Puerto Rico in the early part of the 20th century.  They both also enlisted in the military to serve their country as well as provide for their families.  In those days, the U.S. military served as one of the few outlets for poor Latinos to move up the economic ladder.  It also provided Hispanics a rare opportunity to display their talents and patriotism to the larger American society.  This distinct platform is a major reason why so many Hispanics have and continue to serve our country with great pride.

Their service is one of the hallmarks of our family to this day.  Don Alfredo loves to share tales of his time at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.  He fell in love with politics through the Viva Kennedy campaign of 1960 that was being organized by local Mexican American activists, including the legendary Raymond Telles.  That experience inspired my grandfather to stay involved in politics his entire life.  He even served as Puerto Rico’s Sergeant-at-Arms in the late 1980s.  Similarly, Don Rafa continued to serve others through civic life after his time fighting in World War II.  These role models are the reason I have dedicated my own career to advocacy and civil rights.  Continue reading

Foreign-Born Service Members Exemplify the Best of What It Means to Be American

On Veterans’ Day we honor all of the men and women who have chosen to serve our country by joining the military.  We pause to acknowledge the profound debt owed to those who have fought, sacrificed, and died to protect the United States of America, and to those service members currently defending our nation overseas and at home.

We include in our gratitude those members of the military who, though not born within our borders, demonstrate their love for and commitment to our country by serving in the armed forces.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reported last year that since September 2001, 74,977 members of the military have become U.S. citizens through naturalization ceremonies in places as diverse as Iraq, Afghanistan, El Salvador, and Thailand.  With deep appreciation, NCLR recognizes our foreign-born service members who have decided to pursue the American Dream and their fullest potential as citizens.

We take pride in our veterans and in our servicemen and servicewomen pursuing citizenship.  In 2010 NCLR partnered with Texas Affiliate the Mexican American Unity Council to host a special USCIS naturalization ceremony for several military personnel before the 2010 NCLR Annual Conference.  You can view scenes from that ceremony in this video after the jump.

Thank you to all of our service members who have committed their lives to the defense of the United States of America.  Your selfless example inspires and educates us all on the dedicated and courageous character of American citizenship.