Bay Of Pigs

April 17, 2011 by staff 

Bay Of Pigs, Taps filled the air in Little Havana on Sunday as the survivors of Brigade 2506 to honor their fallen brothers, the men who died trying to free Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.

The survivors, now in there s and 80s, greet and play trumpet and names of veterans killed in combat are read. Among the honored dead:

• Pilot Jose Crespo Brigade Grasso, , who, under fire from a Cuban airliner, asked a chaplain to the radio to hear his last confession. “I want to confess, Father!”

• Alejandro del Valle, 22, youth brigade leader who died of hunger and thirst after fleeing the failed invasion on a sailboat.

• Manuel Puig, 37, accused of spying for Cuba and sent to a firing squad.

In the 50 Th anniversary of the failed invasion, the Cuban exile community in Miami will honor the veterans of the Bay of Pigs – the brigade – considered by many Cuban-Americans as heroes, and their effort to overthrow Fidel Castro was marred by defeat.

“These men certainly fits the bill to be considered a great generation,”said Victor Triay, who wrote the book The Bay of Pigs: An Oral History of Brigade 2506.

More than ,000 took part in the doomed mission, about half of who are still alive today.

“What these men did 50 years ago was an act of courage not seen again for our community,”said U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who last week a delegation of honor veterans in the nation’s capitol.

Prominent exile activist Ninoska Pérez Castell? N also devotes much of her daily radio fighters from the brigade. After her family fled Cuba, her two half brothers fought in the invasion. “The brigade were my childhood heroes in the first place,”he said.

Young people who joined, including Humberto Martinez, who was just 16 when he was assigned to Battalion 2, said that the heroism was not the motivation: “My parents knew what they were doing and we as a family, everyone felt it was right thing to do for my country. ”

For the exiles, the men of Brigade represent the first – and only – organized, large-scale effort supported by the CIA to rid your home of Castro. “Because, as a brigade has always been a revered thing,”said Triay, who was born and raised in Miami after his parents fled Havana.

“This was the first time in Cuba’s modern history that a group of men from all walks of life – lawyers, fishermen, carpenters and students – came together for the greater good,” said Triay, professor of history at Middlesex Community College Middletown, Ct.

The fact that air support for the deal was vetoed by the Kennedy administration, leaving the men stranded on the beach, added to his mystique, he said. “Not only were seen as heroes, victims of a great betrayal.”

The betrayal was not in the mind of Frank De Varona, when he enrolled at age 17, said Miami-Dade clerk, schools and the author.

“I was trying to bring freedom to Cuba,”he said.

As part of a personal project, De Varona tracking the life of the brigade, which says that most have led an exemplary life. They were not mercenaries, as Castro called them. “In fact, I had a young Cubans say:” You do not look like a beggar,”said Julio Gonz? Lez Rebull, 74, assigned to the Air Force unit? “That’s the Castro propaganda against us.”

A brigade became a major general two stars in the U.S. Armed Forced. There were also six colonels, lieutenant colonels, majors and nine, 29 captains and lieutenants. They also fought the nation’s wars, including Vietnam.

Many brigades became businessmen and politicians. Some, like Mario Martinez-Malo, 72, received a government grant to attend the University of Florida. He became a successful financial advisor. “When they were released from a Cuban prison and returned to Miami for 20 months, I wanted to catch up. I think many of us did,”he said.

A brigade is the father of an icon of South Florida “- Gloria Estefan. José Fajardo eventually served in Vietnam, which is believed to have been exposed to Agent Orange. He died in 1980.

“The brigade members are very close to our hearts,”Emilio Estefan, said recently at a book signing.” They were brave young men who wanted a free Cuba and were prepared to fight for it.”

Like Fajardo, Hugo Sueiro, 71, chief of Battalion 2, also stood at U.S. Army after the Bay of Pigs invasion. He was wounded and disabled.

In , he was 21 and assigned to lead the 181-member unit, composed largely of idealistic college students and locals in the province of eastern Cuba.

“I was planning a military life, and when I saw my friends being arrested and sentenced to to 30 years, I felt a sense of duty to help,”said Sueiro.” I was motivated by a just cause. “

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