Chair and members of the Subcommittee on Insular
Affairs, Committee on Natural Resources of the
U.S. House of Representatives.
My name is Jorge
E. Pedroza, President of the Vietnam Veterans of
America Puerto Rico State Council.
I appear before
this Congressional Committee on behalf of my organization.
I served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968 with the
U.S. Army Pathfinder Detachment, 4th Infantry Division.
Those of us who served in Vietnam
performed our duty with honor and pride to defend
and preserve our democratic values and way of life.
Hundreds of my brothers in arms died in that conflict,
and thousands were wounded. For those of us who
came back there were no parades or celebrations.
It took many years and the dedication of the Vietnam
Memorial Monument in this Capital city and the
Memorial Monument in San Juan and many cities around
the nation, for the American people to at last
extend to the Vietnam Veterans the recognition
and remembrance justly deserved.
Today, I come
before the U.S. Congress to request a similar recognition
on behalf of over 200,000 thousand veterans who
live in Puerto Rico and the thousands of brave
young men and women from this island deployed in
Iraq, Afghanistan, and through all the world who
proudly wear the U.S. Armed Forces uniforms. Our
request is simple: give us the opportunity to actively
participate in the American Democracy. Veterans
of Puerto Rico have so proudly fought in the past
and continue to do so in the present. Approve Federal
Legislation authorizing a plebiscite to provide
the veterans and the people of Puerto Rico the
opportunity to determine a non- colonial and non-
territorial political status.
Puerto Rico is a
non-incorporated territory of our nation. It has
been such since 1898 when the island was invaded
by the U.S. Forces under General Miles. U.S was
entrusted with 2 obligations: Civil rights of the
inhabitants will be determine by Congress, Political
status will be determine by Congress. It means
that the obligation accepted by the US representatives
in the Treaty of Paris to resolve the political
status of the island of Puerto Rico rests in Congress.
The time has come to empower the
Puerto Rican men and women to make a decision regarding
ultimate destiny. Let the people of Puerto Rico
with your authorization decide if they want to
become a State of the Union or an independent republic.
This request for self-determination
is supported by the National Organization of the
Vietnam Veterans of America. A resolution entitled “Self-
Determination for Puerto Rico” was unanimously
approved at the National Convention held on August
3, 2003 in St. Louis, Missouri. It calls for the
U.S. Congress to define the legal status options
available for Puerto Rico and authorize a plebiscite
regarding the island’s future. I am including
with my remarks a copy of said resolution.
you have (2) two bills under consideration. The
bill that represents the position adopted by the
Vietnam Veterans of America is H.R. 900 introduced
by Congressman Jose Serrano and 93 co-sponsors,
including Chairman Nick Rahall and Puerto Rico
Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño. We believe
this bill affords the people of Puerto Rico the
opportunity to make an informed decision and directly
vote on their status preference on constitutionally
valid options as defined by Congress.
my honorable ladies and gentleman of this committee
act, Puerto Rico will continue suffering of being
a second class territory of the union and we the
US citizens who have served in the US Armed Services
having paid our greatest tribute of all: Be willing
to give our lives for our nation, lack the rights
to vote for he who send us to the front lines in
combat and the right to decide our political status.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity.
God bless our veterans and our soldiers at home
and around the world.
Jorge E. Pedroza
I was born in
Cayey, Puerto Rico on November 6, 1947. After
graduating from high school in May 1967, I volunteered
to serve my country in the United States Army in
June 1967. I served in the Vietnam War, participating
in the 1968 Tet offensive as an U.S. Army Pathfinder
4th Infantry Division in Pleiku South Vietnam.
I was honorably discharged from service in June
Married with 3 children and 2
granddaughters I have lived in Guaynabo, Puerto
Rico since then. In
1987 I joined the Vietnam Veterans of America Organization
as President of Chapter 59, which held only 11
members. Today the membership counts 380 hundred.
By 1988, I started a protest movement
on behalf of my fellowship veterans against the
Department of Veterans Affairs that lasted 4 years.
The conclusion was the Giusti Bravo lawsuit vs.
US Department of Veterans Affair. 1,000 compensations,
which were taken away from our Vietnam veterans
in Puerto Rico, were restored as a result by 1992.
During that same period; 1993 to 1996, I was able
to start new chapters around the island; Yauco,
Ponce, and Arecibo. In 1993 I demanded the need
for a State Council in Puerto Rico becoming it’s president
until 1996 and regaining the position unanimously
again in May 2001 to present.
At the age of 59
I still have the strength and pride of being a
contribution as a servicemen to the greatest country
in the world, to all the veterans and to my brothers