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Puerto Rican Medal of Honor Recipients

Tony Santiago, a.k.a. "Tony the Marine," is the Editor of our Puerto Rican Medal of Honor and Military History Channels. He is a writer and administrator for Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, specializing in Puerto Rican related topics. email

Puerto Ricans have participated in every conflict in which the United States has been involved, from World War I to the Iraq War. The following five Puerto Ricans made the ultimate sacrifice and were posthumously awarded the nation's highest military decoration - the Medal of Honor, sometimes referred to as the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor is bestowed "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, in actual combat against an armed enemy force." The medal is awarded by the President of the United States on behalf of the Congress.

-- Korean War --


PFC Fernando Luis Garcia

PFC Fernando Luis Garcia (October 14, 1929 - September 5, 1952), born in Utuado, Puerto Rico, was a member of the United States Marines and the first Puerto Rican who was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Garcia went to grade and high school in his native hometown, Utuado. He moved to San Juan where he started to work for the Texas Company as a file clerk.

On September 19, 1951, Garcia was inducted into the Marines; he received his "boot" training at Paris Island, South Carolina and after he graduated from his basic training he was sent to Camp Lejuene in North Carolina where he underwent advanced training before being sent to Korea. Garcia was a Private First Class when he arrived in Korea. He was assigned to Company I, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, of the 1st Marine division. On the night of his death, he was posted about one mile from the enemy lines. The Korean enemies were attacking with grenades, bombs and other types of artillery. Garcia was critically wounded, but he led his team to a supply point to get hand-grenades.

An enemy grenade landed nearby, and Garcia jumped over it, sacrificing himself to save the lives of his fellow Marines. Garcia died instantly and as a result was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. In addition to the Medal of Honor, PFC Garcia's medals and decorations include the following:

Purple Heart
Navy Unit Commendation
National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal with two bronze stars
United Nations Service Medal
Presidential Unit Citation (Korea)

PFC Fernando Luis Garcia's remains were never recovered. There is a headstone with Garcia's name in the Puerto Rico National Cemetery in the city of Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

On February 5, 1959 the United States Marines Corps named a military camp in Vieques, Puerto Rico, "Camp Garcia" in his honor. His name is inscribed in "El Monumento de la Recordacion" (Monument of Remembrance), dedicated to Puerto Rico's fallen soldiers and situated in front of the Capitol Building in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A monument commemorating his actions stands in his hometown of Utuado, Puerto Rico.

-- Vietnam War --


PFC Carlos James Lozada

PFC Carlos James Lozada (September 6, 1946 - November 20, 1967), United States Army, killed in action in Vietnam, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Lozada was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico. His family moved to New York City in the early 1950s. They settled down in the Bronx section of the city where Lozada received both his primary and secondary education. He graduated from high school in 1966 and soon married. Lozada then joined the Army, intending to use his G.I. benefits to attend college after his term of service.

The United States at that time was involved in the Vietnam War and on June 11, 1967, Lozada was sent to Vietnam and assigned to Co. A, 2nd Battalion, 503 Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade.

On November 20, 1967, at Dak To in the Republic of Vietnam, PFC Lozada spotted a North Vietnamese Army company rapidly approaching his outpost. He alerted his comrades and opened fire with a machine gun, killing at least twenty of the enemy soldiers and disrupting their initial attack. He realized that if he abandoned his position there would be nothing to hold back the surging North Vietnamese soldiers and that his entire company withdrawal would be jeopardized - as a result he told his comrades to move to the back and that he would supply cover for them. He continued to deliver a heavy and accurate volume of suppressive fire against the enemy until he was mortally wounded and had to be carried during the withdrawal.

PFC Lozada was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for distinguishing himself in the Battle of Dak To. Among his other military decorations are the Purple Heart Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and the Vietnam Campaign Medal. His name is located in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall Panel 30E-Row 045. His name is also inscribed in "El Monumento de la Recordacion" (Monument of Remembrance), dedicated to Puerto Rico's fallen soldiers and situated in front of the Capitol Building in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Bronx honored him by naming a playground in his honor located behind 175 Willis Ave.

PFC Carlos Lozada is buried in New York City.

Capt. Euripides Rubio

Capt. Euripides Rubio (March 1, 1938 - November 8, 1966) born in Ponce, Puerto Rico , was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Rubio was a member of the U.S. Army, H&H Co., 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division,RVN.

On November 8, 1966 at Tay Ninh Province, in the Republic of Vietnam Capt. Rubio's company came under attack from the North Vietnamese Army; leaving the safety of his post, Capt. Rubio received two serious wounds as he braved the intense enemy fire to distribute ammunition, reestablish positions and render aid to the wounded.

Despite his pain he assumed command when a rifle company commander was medically evacuated. He was then wounded a third time as he tried to move amongst his men to encourage them to fight with renewed effort.

While aiding the evacuation of wounded personnel, he noted that a US smoke grenade, which was intended to mark the Viet Cong's position for an air strike, had fallen dangerously close to friendly lines - he ran to move the grenade but was immediately struck to his knees by enemy fire. Despite his wounds, Capt. Rubio managed to collect the grenade and run through enemy fire to within 20 meters of the enemy position and throw the by then already smoking grenade into the enemy before he fell for the final time.

Using the now repositioned grenade as a marker, friendly air strikes were directed to destroy the hostile positions. Capt. Rubio's singularly heroic act turned the tide of the battle, and for his extaordinary leadership and valor, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

His remains were buried in Puerto Rico National Cemetery in the city of Bayamón, Puerto Rico. The U.S. Army named a military installation "Capt. Euripedes Rubio" in Puerto Nuevo, a sector of San Juan, Puerto Rico and his name is inscribed in "El Monumento de la Recordacion" (Monument of Remembrance), dedicated to Puerto Rico's fallen soldiers and situated in front of the Capitol Building in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Sp4c Hector Santiago-Colón

Sp4c Hector Santiago-Colón (December 20, 1942 - June 28, 1968) born in Salinas, Puerto Rico , was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Santiago-Colón was in the U.S. Army, Co.B, 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division. On June 28, 1968, at Quang Tri Province, in the Republic of Vietnam, an enemy (North Vietnamese) soldier lobbed a hand grenade into Santiago-Colon's foxhole. Realizing that there was no time to throw out the grenade, he tucked it in to his stomach and turning away from his comrades, absorbed the full impact of the blast, saving his fellow soldiers from certain death but killing himself.

Santiago-Colón was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty. His remains are buried in the City of Salinas, Puerto Rico. His name is inscribed in "El Monumento de la Recordacion" (Monument of Remembrance), dedicated to Puerto Rico's fallen soldiers and situated in front of the Capitol Building in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Captain Humbert Roque Versace

Humbert Roque Versace (July 2, 1937-September 26, 1965) was a United States Army Captain of Puerto Rican-Italian descent who was awarded the United States' highest military decoration - the Medal of Honor - for his heroic actions while a prisoner of war (POW) during the Vietnam War. He was the first member of the U.S. Army to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions performed while in captivity.


Humbert Roque Versace was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on July 2, 1937. He was the oldest of five children born to Marie Teresa Rios (1917-1999) - the author of three books, including the Fifteenth Pelican on which the TV Show, The Flying Nun (starring Sally Fields) was based on - and Colonel Humbart Joseph Versace (1911-1972).

Versace grew up in Alexandria, Virginia and attended Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C.. He joined the Armed Forces in Norfolk, Virginia. Versace entered the United States Military Academy West Point in 1955. He graduated in 1959 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He became a member of the Army Special Forces (Green Berets) and was assigned to Fort Myer.

After six years of service, he attained the rank of Captain. On May 12, 1962, Versace began his first tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam as an intelligence advisor. In May 1963, he volunteered for another tour. Versace wanted to become a priest and he was accepted into the seminary. He planned to someday return to Vietnam and work with the orphans.

On October 29, 1963, while acting as intelligence advisor in the Mekong Delta, he accompanied several companies of South Vietnamese troops, who had planned to take out a Viet Cong (VC) command post, located in the U Minh Forest, a Viet Cong stronghold. A large VC force ambushed and overran Versace's unit, wounding him in the process. He was able to provide enough covering fire so that the friendly forces could withdraw from the killing zone.

A second government force of about 200 men operating only a few thousand yards from the main fight, learned of the disaster too late to help. U.S. authorities said the communist radio jammers had knocked out both the main channel and the alternate channel on all local military radios.

Versace was captured and taken to a prison deep in the jungle along with two other Americans, Lieutenant Nick Rowe and Sergeant Dan Pitzer. He tried to escape four times, but failed in his attempts. Versace insulted the Viet Cong during the indoctrination sessions and cited the Geneva Convention treaty time after time. The Viet Cong separated Versace from the other prisoners. The last time the prisoners heard his voice, he was loudly singing "God Bless America". On September 26, 1965, North Vietnam’s "Liberation Radio” announced the execution of Captain Humbert Roque Versace.

Versace’s remains have never been recovered. His head stone at Arlington National Cemetery stands above an empty grave.

Upon learning of their son's fate, Marie Teresa Rios Versace and her husband, Colonel Versace, tried to find out what they could about the circumstances. She went to Paris in the late 1960s, trying unsuccessfully to see the North Vietnamese delegation as it arrived for peace talks. Rios Versace expressed her frustration and anguish in poems.

Nominations to award Versace the Medal of Honor were initiated in 1969, but the nomination failed and he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal instead. The quest for a Medal of Honor for Versace languished until the "Friends of Rocky Versace" reinitiated the crusade once more in 1999. Language added by Congress in the 2002 Defense Authorization Act ended the standoff and authorized the award of the nation's highest military decoration for combat valor to Versace.

On July 8, 2002, in a ceremony in the White House East Room, Versace was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush for his heroism, the first time an Army POW had been awarded the nation's highest honor for actions in captivity. Present were his surviving siblings, Dr. Stephen, Richard (former coach of the Indiana Pacers), Michael and Trilby Versace.

Awards and decorations:

*Medal of Honor
*Silver Star
*Purple Heart
*POW Medal
*Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal

Medal of Honor citation:

Humbert Roque Versace
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army, Intelligence Advisor, Special Operations
Place and date: Republic of Vietnam.
Entered service at: Norfolk, Virginia Birth: Honolulu, Hawaii

Citation:"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while a prisoner of war during the period of October 29, 1963 to September 26, 1965 in the Republic of Vietnam. While accompanying a Civilian Irregular Defense Group patrol engaged in combat operations in Thoi Binh District, An Xuyen Province, Republic of Vietnam on October 29, 1963, Captain Versace and the CIDG assault force were caught in an ambush from intense mortar, automatic weapons, and small arms fire from elements of a reinforced enemy Main Force battalion. As the battle raged, Captain Versace fought valiantly and encouraged his CIDG patrol to return fire against overwhelming enemy forces. He provided covering fire from an exposed position to enable friendly forces to withdraw from the killing zone when it was apparent that their position would be overrun, and was severely wounded in the knee and back from automatic weapons fire and [[shrapnel]. He stubbornly resisted capture with the last full measure of his strength and ammunition. Taken prisoner by the Viet Cong, he demonstrated exceptional leadership and resolute adherence to the tenants of the Code of Conduct from the time he entered into a prisoner of war status. Captain Versace assumed command of his fellow American prisoners, and despite being kept locked in irons in an isolation box, raised their morale by singing messages to popular songs of the day, and leaving inspiring messages at the latrine. Within three weeks of captivity, and despite the severity of his untreated wounds, he attempted the first of four escape attempts by dragging himself on his hands and knees out of the camp through dense swamp and forbidding vegetation to freedom. Crawling at a very slow pace due to his weakened condition, the guards quickly discovered him outside the camp and recaptured him. Captain Versace scorned the enemys exhaustive interrogation and indoctrination efforts, and inspired his fellow prisoners to resist to the best of their ability. When he used his Vietnamese language skills to protest improper treatment of the American prisoners by the guards, he was put into leg irons and gagged to keep his protestations out of earshot of the other American prisoners in the camp. The last time that any of his fellow prisoners heard from him, Captain Versace was singing God Bless America at the top of his voice from his isolation box. Unable to break his indomitable will, his faith in God, and his trust in the United States of America and his fellow prisoners, Captain Versace was executed by the Viet Cong on September 26, 1965. Captain Versaces extraordinary heroism, self-sacrifice, and personal bravery involving conspicuous risk of life above and beyond the call of duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Army, and reflect great credit to himself and the U.S. Armed Forces."

In memory

On July 9, 2002, Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White and Army Chief of Staff General Eric K. Shinseki inducted Versace into the Pentagon Hall of Heroes.

Versace’s capture and execution was chronicled in the book Five Years to Freedom by Nick Rowe.

There is a statue with the likeness of Versace located in the Rocky Verace Plaza, made possible with a donation of $125,000 raised by the citizens of Alexandria, Virginia.

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