November 7, 2003

A Salute to Latino Veterans

The focus of this week’s Latino Leadership Link (LLL) is Latino veterans as we prepare a Veterans Day salute to all of the brave men and women who have served this country.

We must never forget that there have been countless Latinos among the brave soldiers that have selflessly defended this country-many of them serving before they even became U.S. citizens. Countless Latinos made the ultimate sacrifice without ever becoming citizens so that we could live in peace and prosperity.

Latinos have proudly defended America throughout its history, and with 109,487 on active duty today, they continue to do so. There are currently 1.3 million Latino veterans, constituting 5% of the Latino population in America today. Of these, over half (674,000) live in California, Texas, and Puerto Rico. Latinos are the highest decorated ethnic group in U.S. military history. They have received 1,550 Silver Stars, 2,000 Bronze Stars, 88 Medals of Honor, and 40 Distinguished Service Crosses since WWI.   

The 65th Infantry is the highest decorated regiment in U.S. military history. Made up of four thousand Puerto Rican soldiers during the Korean War, the regiment was awarded:

* Nine Distinguished Service Crosses

* Two hundred fifty Silver Stars

* Over five hundred Bronze Stars

* Presidential Unit Citation

* Meritorious Unit Commendation

* Two Korea Presidential Unit Citations

* The Gold Bravery Medal of Greece.

With Latinos making up 9.5% of the Armed Forces, issues already critical to Latino veterans will only become more pressing in the near future. Unfortunately, Latino veterans face a more serious gap in post-service healthcare than their non-Latino comrades. Some of the most serious shortfalls: 

   A disturbing 19% of Latino veterans are uninsured.  This is almost double the amount of uninsured for the total veteran population (10%). 

 12% of Latino veterans report the VA as their only source of healthcare, compared with 7.4% of the total veteran population.

 23.3% of Latino veterans reported using Medicare coverage.

 Latino veterans are more likely to receive care in emergency rooms or psychiatric care settings and less likely to receive outpatient care, inpatient care, or prescription drugs than other veterans.

 Latino veterans are less likely to use veterans’ burial benefits such as burial in a veteran’s cemetery or VA headstones and marker allowances.

  Latinos being one of the youngest and fastest growing demographics of the veteran’s population in America, these issues must be addressed in order to help those who defended our country to lead a peaceful and healthy life. They laid down their lives for this country, and it is now time for America to show our gratitude.

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