First U.S. Monument to Puerto Rican Veterans Vandalized Over Memorial Day Weekend

A pillar marking the first-ever memorial built on the U.S. mainland in honor of Puerto Rican veterans was knocked to the ground this Memorial Day weekend, sparking anger and sadness among veterans.

Boston Police have launched a vandalism investigation into the incident after the pillar honoring the contributions of Puerto Rican veterans was found knocked over in the South End neighborhood of Boston on Sunday morning.

The pillar, which is one of two marking the entrance to the memorial, is inscribed with the words "Puerto Rican Veterans Memorial."

A Boston Police spokesperson told Newsweek that the second pillar, which had been engraved with the same words in Spanish, had also appeared to show signs of having been tampered with.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from the office of Boston Mayor Martin Walsh told Newsweek that a flag at the site had also been lowered to the ground.

Speaking with The Boston Globe, Robert Santiago, Boston's commissioner of veterans services, said it was "heart-wrenching to see that someone actually went out there and did that." Newsweek has contacted Santiago's office for further comment.

With the incident unfolding just a day before Memorial Day, Tony Molina, the president of the Puerto Rican Veteran Monument Square Association, said he was especially dismayed.

"I just want some respect for our fallen heroes, and for people to have some sense," Molina told The Globe. "They are vandalizing a monument for people who have sacrificed their lives for this country."

By Sunday afternoon, a work crew had already been sent out to set the pillar back in place.

Mayor Walsh thanked the Boston Parks and Recreation Department for its quick response in a tweet, as he branded the incident a "horrific act."

"Our veterans are heroes that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom," Walsh said. "I'm disgusted by the act of vandalism at the Puerto Rican Veterans Memorial."

Asked for further comment, Walsh's office said crews had fixed the pillars that were vandalized and raised the Puerto Rican flag at half mast in honor of fallen heroes.

Our veterans are heroes that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. I’m disgusted by the act of vandalism at the Puerto Rican Veterans Memorial.

Thank you to @BostonParksDept and Property Management for quickly coming together to resolve this horrific act. pic.twitter.com/ssb3Dr0Fwo

— Mayor Marty Walsh (@marty_walsh) May 24, 2020

The memorial had initially been created in 1999 in honor of the U.S. Army's 65th Infantry Regiment from Puerto Rico, which had been nicknamed "The Borinqueneers" after the original Taíno indigenous name for Puerto Rico.

In 2013, officials added a statue of two soldiers, a man and a woman, inscribed with the words "La libertad no es gratis," or "Freedom is not free."

Puerto Rican soldiers have fought for the U.S. since the Revolutionary War. However, as the U.S. Defense Department notes on its website, the 65th Infantry Regiment is widely regarded as the most well-known Puerto Rican unit to serve.

During World War II, members of the 65th Regiment were stationed in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Americas before being deployed to Europe in 1944.

They were "credited with battle participation in the Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arnio, Central-Europe and Rhineland campaigns," according to the Defense Department, with their efforts in Europe earning the 65th's soldiers a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars and 90 Purple Hearts in combat.

The 65th Regiment also played an important role in the Korean War, with approximately 61,000 Puerto Ricans believed to have served, many being volunteers.

Memorial Boston
One of the pillars marking the Puerto Rican Veterans Memorial in Boston, MA, was knocked down over Memorial Day weekend.