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Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón

Representing Puerto Rico

Jenniffer González honors Korean War veteran awarded Purple Heart

November 7, 2018
Press Release

San Juan, Puerto Rico- As part of the Month to Honor Veterans, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón presented Puerto Rican veteran Gilberto Castillo Méndez with several military decorations earned for his prominence in the Korean War, among them the Purple Heart.


González Colón presented Castillo with the Purple Heart medal earned for wounds received in the Korean War; the Combat Infantry Badge (CBI) for satisfactory performance of duty, while under hostile fire; the Korean War Service Medal awarded by the Republic of Korea; a Proclamation from the President of the Republic of Korea; and a certificate of recognition by the United States Congress.


Gilberto Castillo Méndez was born in Aguadilla on September 16, 1931 and grew up in Caguas. In 1951, Gilberto joined the United States Army, where he participated in the Korean War and was wounded in action when his position suffered an enemy mortar attack.


Castillo Méndez married Eva Hernández Del Valle in 1952.  Together they had four (4) children: Gilberto, Harry, Juan and Braulio. His wife Eva passed away in 2003 after 51 years of marriage.


In 1953, Gilberto Castillo left the Army and studied accounting and management. In 1955, he started working in the accounting area of ​​the administration office of the Consolidated Cigar Corporation, a company in which he worked for 25 years. From 1981 to 1996, he served as deputy mayor of Caguas at the request of the then mayor, Ángel O. Berríos.


Castillo was also the writer of the column "De Frente" in the newsweekly La Semana from 1992 to 1996; And staff advisor to State Representative Silvia Corujo from 2001 to 2004.


Mr. Gilberto Castillo, to whom the congresswoman thanked for his service in the Armed Forces, and who in turn noted his admiration for her fighting spirit and described her as a fighter, moved to Florida like so many other Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria; he lives with his son Juan Manuel, his daughter-in-law and grandchildren.


The Purple Heart is one of the most recognized and respected awards granted to members of the Armed Forces of the United States and the oldest in the nation, created by George Washington as General of the Continental Army in 1782, but not granted again until 1932 on the bicentennial of the birth of President Washington.


The United States Army specifies the design of the medal as a heart of enamel, purple in color with the profile of General Washington in Continental Army uniform within a quarter-inch bronze border. Above the enameled heart is the coat of arms of the Washington family between two sprays of leaves, on whose reverse are a raised bronze heart and the inscription "For Military Merit." The 1 11/16 inch medal is suspended from a purple ribbon, 1 3/8 inches long by 1 3/8 inches wide with white edges of 1/8 inch.


Created to recognize “a singularly meritorious act of essential service”, according to the current Army regulations, the award of the decoration recognizes “a wound that requires treatment by a medical officer, that was received in action against an enemy, and that in the judgment of the commander authorized to make the recognition, may be understood as resulting from a meritorious act” of service.


Through time these requirements have been tempered to changing realities. An example of this is when President Ronald Reagan extended the eligibility for the Purple Heart in 1984 to the situations of terrorist attacks or  while the military serves as part of a peacekeeping force.


The Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) is awarded to Army soldiers of the rank of Colonel or below who have satisfactorily fulfilled their duty while assigned as a member of an infantry brigade, Rangers or Special Forces unit during any period in which the unit engaged in active ground fighting. The recipient must have been present and exposed to hostile fire while in a unit that actively participated in ground combat with the enemy.