FEBRUARY 9, 2024 – Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro honored Puerto Rican veterans and servicemembers during a ceremony at the Navy Reserve Center (NRC) Puerto Rico, Feb. 8.
Hosted by the American Legion Department of Puerto Rico, the event included a Chair of Honor solemn ceremony. Secretary Del Toro and Carmen Rosario, American Legion Puerto Rico Department Commander, draped the Prisoner of War and Missing in Action (POW/MIA) flag onto a single chair, while Taps played, remembering the 196 Puerto Rican Service members missing in action.
“The service of tens of thousands of Puerto Rican veterans over the past 130 years—from World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, through the first Gulf War and this century’s conflicts in the Middle East have proven, time and time again, their dedication, bravery, and commitment to freedom and liberty,” said Secretary Del Toro.
Secretary Del Toro also noted that 28 percent of the Marine Corps is Hispanic, and 18.4 percent of the Navy is Hispanic. In addition, Secretary Del Toro thanked all in attendance, who have fought, served, and sacrificed in the long history of defending freedom around the world, and their family members who sacrificed as well.
“Our nation is stronger for your service, and we owe you and your fellow veterans our eternal gratitude,” said Secretary Del Toro.
Secretary Del Toro also asked veterans to help with the national call to service.
“I ask that each of you continue to share your stories of service with others as we look to inspire the next generation of Americans to serve our nation, regardless of whether it is in uniform or as a public servant supporting our local, state, or federal governments,” said Secretary Del Toro. “Service to our country and service in the armed forces are not merely jobs or careers. They are fundamental aspects of our democracy, deeply ingrained in the very fabric of our nation.”
While in Puerto Rico, Secretary Del Toro also met with Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico Lt. Governor Omar Marrero, and Puerto Rico Secretary of Economic Development and Commerce Manuel Cidre, emphasizing the Department of the Navy’s commitment to Puerto Rico small business development and engagement. He also participated in two small business roundtables – a U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency Business Roundtable and a Joint U.S. Department of Defense and Navy Business Roundtable – and visited the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico San Juan to learn about students’ interests in entrepreneurship and STEM.
Prior to visiting Puerto Rico, Secretary Del Toro attended the National 8(a) Association Small Business Conference, where he delivered remarks and hosted a business roundtable with small businesses from various industry sectors seeking to learn more about doing business with the DON.