Erasmo Rivera Pagan,SFC,65th Regiment,3rd Infantry,7/4/30-3/20/07. My eulogy:
1st understand his roots in the culture of Puerto Rico:a synthesis of 3 separate cultures:the indigenous people,the Spaniards & the Africans on a Caribbean Island 100×40 miles,but witha much larger impact on Latin America than its size.From my 2-week experience at age 26 this culture has the most color blind society I have ever seen.It was a fully-functioning economy for centuries: they lived off the land.
2 patterns emerged:a 500-year time frame vs.200 of the mainland US.A color blind society & a longer evolution than the USA,was important;also a functional excellence going on here.Caribbean baseball stars(Alou Brothers,Rod Carew,Orlando Cepeda & Juan Marischal)stood out.
I married Gloria & went to San Juan for our honeymoon;on return to California at Mexican restaurants,many songs played live were Puerto Rican!La Ultima Copa,Amistad,
Pa’Todo El Ano,En Mi Viejo San Juan.The white Rum of choice is Bacardi of San Juan.The world’s largest radio telescope is at Arecibo,operated by Cornell University.
200 years vs 500.Cultural hi standards.Quality.Cultural excellence.Teamwork & Color Blindness,vs. a young country, where only 140 years ago Civil War ended slavery.Puerto Rican society:300 years ahead of America -a more advanced state of development.
The culture said a person’s worth is based more on merit and ability to contribute to society; less upon privilege and what one could take from it.Many parallels there,with some of my country’s highest ideals.
So who was this soldier? 1st:A survivor, shot by the enemy in Korea,blown out of a Jeep in Vietnam,but with sand bags on the seat and floor,he escaped death while his driver,who didn’t,didn’t. If your soldiers don’t survive,you lose your army,the battle and the war.
2nd,he lived a code of honor every day of his life, and happy to help those of peers who needed to understand The Code.
3rd,an aggressive scrappy fighter.Maybe not so important in peacetime,but of incalculable worth on the battlefield.
4th,an indomitable will to live.In his 70s the VA medical staff saw this,as he cheated death,for 3 years.What about being a supply sergeant? Some downplay its importance.History says otherwise.The Lend-lease program, late 1942,re-supplied the Russians,while VonPaulus was bogged down with dysfunctional supply lines.In the Battle of Stalingrad that followed(1/1/1943) Konev&Zukhov turned the tide of the European war. Better supply, better results. Another example:the Liberty Ships. Supply is a critical function:the force with the superior supply wins the war.
As a provider & father,others already reported on his working 2 or 3 jobs to make extra money.He fed the homeless veterans from holiday left-overs, decades before it became fashionable.
He was for me a source of inspiration,& an example of a more advanced society,deeply rooted to the land,than what I see around me today.