[Congressional Record Volume 155, Number 30 (Friday, February 13, 2009)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E284]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                             HON. JOE BACA

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                       Friday, February 13, 2009

  Mr. BACA. Madam Speaker, I stand here today to honor the 60th 
Anniversary of WWII Private Felix Longoria, the first Mexican American 
to be buried at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC.
   Private Felix Z. Longoria was drafted into the United States Army on 
November 11, 1944, at the age of 25 from Three Rivers, Texas.
   While on a voluntary patrol on June 1945, Private Longoria was 
killed in action by a Japanese sniper in Cagayan Valley, Luzon, 
Philippines. He posthumously received the Purple Heart, the Bronze 
Star, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge for his 
service and sacrifice.
   Sadly in 1945, when the remains of Private Longoria were finally 
identified and returned back to the United States, Beatrice Longoria, 
the widow of Private Felix Longoria, was turned away and unable to hold 
a funeral service for her deceased husband at a private funeral home in 
Three Rivers, Texas. At the time, the city of Three Rivers' sole 
cemetery was divided by a barbed wire fence, into two sections, one for 
whites and another for non-whites.
   This act of discrimination moved Beatrice Longoria to contact Dr. 
Hector P. Garcia a surgeon general of the area, and the founder of the 
newly created American GI Forum.
   Dr. Hector P. Garcia sent out seventeen telegrams to elected and 
government officials, which stated ``the denial was a direct 
contradiction of those same principles for which this American soldier 
made the supreme sacrifice in giving his life for his country, and for 
the same people who deny him the last funeral rites deserving of any 
American hero regardless of his origin''.
   Just recently founded during that time on March 26, 1948, the 
American GI Forum and its founder, Dr. Hector P. Garcia launched a 
civil rights movement to help the Longoria family.
   Then a junior United States Senator, Lyndon B. Johnson, on January 
11, 1949, sent a telegram to Dr. Hector P. Garcia that read ``. . . I 
have today made arrangements to have Felix Longoria buried with full 
military honors in Arlington National Cemetery here in Washington 
where, the honored dead of our nation' war rest. . .This injustice and 
prejudice is deplorable. I am happy to have a part seeing that this 
Texas hero is laid to rest with the honor and dignity his services 
   Thanks to the AGIF, Dr. Garcia and Senator Johnson, Private Felix 
Longoria became the first Mexican American serviceman to be awarded 
this honor. On February 16, 1949, Private Felix Longoria was given a 
full military burial with honors in Arlington National Cemetery. The 
Longoria family was joined at the service by United States Senator 
Lyndon B. Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson, Congressman John Lyle and 
President Harry Truman's' military aide, General Harry H. Vaughan.
   The work and legacy of the late Dr. Hector P. Garcia and the 
American GI Forum that he founded, still continues to this day, in the 
name of all Veterans and Hispanics in the United States.
   February 16, 2009 marks the 60th anniversary of the burial of 
Private Felix Longoria, the first Mexican American servicemen to be 
awarded this honor. On this day, I encourage all Americans to remember 
the great sacrifices made by our American heroes in all the conflicts 
in the history of the United States.