An almost forgotten part of history has now been permanently enshrined on the campus of Bronx Community College in University Heights.
Congressman Adriano Espaillat joined Councilman Fernando Cabrera in unveiling the ‘World War II Dominican Veterans Monument,’ on Friday, November 2. Beneath a thick canopy of clouds, leaders from the Bronx and the Dominican Republic hailed the new addition to the New York City landscape and the 351 heroes whose names are etched into its stone façade.
Across the United States, there has never been a tribute to the courageous American servicemen and servicewomen of Dominican heritage who fought for the freedom of their country and the world during World War II.
The names inscribed on the monument, including a Tuskegee Airman and a bronze and silver star winner, were identified through a joint effort between Bronx Community College and the Dominican Studies Institute, researched by a CUNY Dominican Studies Project called ‘Dominicans in New York.’
Following a bilingual invocation and performances of the national anthems of the United States and the Dominican Republic, the event opened with remarks with many elected and CUNY officials.
“The formal unveiling of the World War II memorial recognizes the courage and sacrifice of more than 340 Dominicans who bravely fought on the side of the allies during WW2,” Cabrera said. “These soldiers have been largely left out of U.S. history and I believed their rightful and public recognition was long past due,” he mentioned.
The councilman went to mention that in 2014, he had allocated $200,000 in capital funding to build a memorial honoring the Dominican Veterans. After the collaboration between his office and BCC, that number would later grow to $400,000 as the monument found a rightful home on the CUNY campus.
Calling the memorial “a gift to us all,” Judy Bergtraum, vice chancellor of CUNY also explained how Dominican students make up the largest ethnicity group at CUNY schools.
Family members of the honored men and women also spoke. “Sometimes this country forgets the power and the contributions of the immigrant people,” said Angelica Infante, the granddaughter of veteran Juan Infante, who enlisted to fight in World War II when he was almost 40. “We as Dominicans are extremely proud of our accomplishments. We are a mighty community. We too are Americans,” she proudly added.
One of the honored veterans, Antonio Martinez even helped Espaillat obtain his own citizenship into America some years ago.
While wearing a Yankees hat, still bitter over the Red Sox World Series title, the congressman proudly spoke, addressing his own journey from the Dominican Republic to America.
“This is a great legacy for our community,” Espaillat said while boasting statistics of how many Dominicans have come to call the Bronx their home. “I think this is a fitting place to put such a monument so that one day my grandchildren and their grandchildren will say “who’s Antonio Martinez?”