[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Honoring Cuban-American Veterans

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Honoring Cuban-American Veterans

(Cross-posted from Babalu Blog).

Veterans Day has always held a special place in my heart. I'm far from being alone in feeling this way, and my situation is anything but unique. The reason for this is that my father is a veteran of the Vietnam War. For me, Veterans Day is about ceremonies, parades and tributes to those who sacrificed so much for their country.

As a youngster, I heard many of my father's stories of being in Vietnam and of his Army service before and after the war. I heard him and his fellow Cuban-American vets share many war stories. Needless to say, I have always felt an immense sense of pride for those individuals. There is no higher honor than serving your country and being willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

What makes my father and his group of veterans even more special is that they weren't even born in the United States. They were born in Cuba and escaped the island prison in the same way that so many did back in the early years of "the revolution". They were teenagers and young adults, their futures suspended because of exile. These folks eventually chose to serve their adopted country against a foe much like the one they and their families fled from just a few years before. While many Americans protested and even left their country, these foreign-born men embraced the opportunity to defend freedom.

As I mentioned above, there is no higher honor than serving your country. There is one exception, however: serving your adopted country.

In Miami, there are at least three organizations of Cuban-Americans who have served the United States of America in the Armed Forces. These are:

- Veterans of Foreign War Jose Marti Post 10212
- American Legion Capt. Felix Sosa-Camejo Post 346
- Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 620
- Cuban-American Veterans Organization.

I'd like to bring special attention to the name Felix Sosa-Camejo. Here's some information on Capt. Sosa-Camejo courtesy of this statement read before the Senate Committee on Armed Services in 2006:

(Felix Sosa-Camejo) came here, to Miami, as a 20 year-old refugee from Castro’s regime and enlisted in the Army in 1963. Serving for five years, Captain Sosa-Camejo earned 12 citations, including the Bronze Star, three Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts. On February 13, 1968, in the heat of the Tet Offensive on the streets of Hue, his platoon was pinned down by enemy fire and unable to reach a wounded comrade. With disregard for his safety, Captain Sosa-Camejo ran through the intense enemy fire and pulled the wounded man to safety. This action would earn Captain Sosa-Camejo his second Bronze Star and would cost him his life.

None other than Humberto Fontova wrote this about Capt. Sosa-Camejo back in 2006:

“On February 13, 1968, the lead platoon was hit by an enemy bunker complex manned by approximately forty North Vietnamese Regulars. Upon initial contact the point man was wounded and lay approximately 10 meters in front of the center bunker. The platoon was unable to move forward and extract the wounded man due to the heavy volume of fire being laid down from the enemy bunker complex.

“Captain Sosa-Camejo immediately moved into the firing line and directed the fire against the enemy bunker. With disregard for his safety, Captain Sosa-Camejo ran through the intense enemy fire and pulled the wounded point man to safety. After ensuring that the wounded man was receiving medical treatment, Captain Sosa-Camejo returned to the fire fight and again exposed himself to the intense enemy fire by single handedly assaulting the center bunker with grenades killing the two NVA soldiers manning the bunker. As he turned to assault the next bunker an NVA machine gun opened up and he was mortally wounded. Captain Sosa-Camejo’s valorous action and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.”

Next time you hear someone complain about Cuban-Americans' lack of devotion for their adopted country, next time you hear an immigrant complain about this country, you might want to share these stories with them.

Here is a speech by former U.S. Representative Dante Fascell in commemoration of the VFW Jose Marti Post's 20th anniversary back in 1991. I posted this at Babalu back in November 2005, and this is another good opportunity to remind everyone of the sacrifices made by Cuban-Americans. Please take the time to read it, it's well worth the time.

To all veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, and especially to our Cuban-Americans vets, my deepest gratitude and respect for what you've done and for what you stand for.



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