SAN JUAN (AP) — A Puerto Rican retiree who served in some of the bloodiest battles of the Korean War received a belated appreciation Friday from the U.S. military, receiving one of the Army’s highest service medals as part of an effort to find and honor surviving veterans of the conflict before it is too late.
Luis Ramos was presented with a Bronze Star for serving as a radioman, a highly vulnerable job that required him to be in the thick of combat, as the Puerto Rico-based 65th Infantry Regiment fought Chinese and North Korean troops from 1950 until the conflict came to a stalemate in 1953.
Ramos, now 89 and living with his wife in Coral Springs, Florida, was pleased with the recognition despite the delay which is not that uncommon among veterans of the Korean War in which more than 36,000 U.S. military personnel died.
“I feel very proud and very glad,” Ramos told The Associated Press after the ceremony at a monument to the 65th Infantry in San Juan. “This is a great moment for me.”
The 65th Infantry, which, during the Korean War, was made up mostly of Puerto Ricans, who had to contend with discrimination as well as enemy fire, received hundreds of medals for valor. One soldier, Pfc. Luis Fernando Garcia from the small island town of Utuado, received a posthumous Medal of Honor, the highest commendation of all.
Somehow Ramos, who also served in World War II and went on to a career in the U.S. Postal Service, never received his Bronze Star or several other commendations.
One of his five children, Luis Ramos Jr., said his father felt he and other veterans of the Korean War had been forgotten. The son wrote the Defense Department, which offered to correct the oversight.
“It was a tough war. He was close to getting killed many times,” said the younger Ramos, a software engineer who lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. “Then they come home and are completely ignored … He’s not going to be around much more; it really bothered me.”