7:36 PM EDT
Ciro Rodriguez, D-TX 23rd

Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and ranking member.

Let me take this opportunity, first of all, to congratulate the GI Forum on their extraordinary work. These are veterans that came after World War II and continue to give in their communities.

I speak today on behalf of a bill that I introduced, House Resolution 1291, expressing the gratitude for the contributions of the American GI Forum on its 60th anniversary. Some 60 years ago, Dr. Hector P. Garcia, a U.S. Army major and veteran of World War II, established the American GI Forum in Corpus Christi, Texas, to address the concerns of the Mexican American veterans who were segregated from other veteran groups.

Dr. Garcia initially formed the group to request services for the World War II veterans of Mexican descent who were denied medical services by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The forum soon spread into nonveteran issues, such as voting rights issues, jury selection issues, and educational desegregation issues, advocating for civil rights of all Mexican Americans.

The GI Forum's first campaign was on behalf of Felix Longoria, a Mexican American private who had been killed in the Philippines in the line of duty. Upon the return of his body to Texas, he was denied burial services in Texas, and Dr. Garcia and the GI Forum were organized around this issue, requesting the involvement of then-Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson, who secured Longoria's burial at the Arlington National Cemetery. This was a soldier whose body had been returned to Texas and was denied

burial in a particular cemetery in south Texas.

The case brought the American GI Forum to the national attention and the charters were obtained throughout the country. A large number of GI Forum organizations were organized during that period, and continue to this day.

Ten years later, in 1998, Congress officially recognized the GI Forum with a charter. Its motto is ``Education is our Freedom and Freedom Should be Everybody's Business.'' The forum currently operates chapters throughout the United States, with a focus on veterans' issues, education, and civil rights. Its two largest national programs are the San Antonio-based Veterans Outreach Programs and the Dallas-based Service, Employment, Redevelopment-Jobs for progress.

I want to urge Members of Congress to join me in voting for the resolution and expressing the gratitude for the contributions of the GI Forum.

Let me just also indicate that the resolution that we drafted, at the end says, ``Whereas, the GI Forum continues to be a beacon of hope.'' These individuals continue to work with our veterans. They have a beautiful homeless project that reaches out to our veterans out there, and it's veterans working with veterans.

So it says, ``Now, therefore be it resolved that the House of Representatives recognizes the need for equal access to veterans benefits for all who have honored their service to, support the goals and ideals and deeds of the American GI Forum and its members, and commends the work of the American GI Forum on its 60th anniversary, and encourages others to join with the American GI Forum to ensure that veterans are never again denied the benefits that they rightfully deserve.''

So I will ask for your support.