Lawmaker Says the Sacrifice of Wars Should be Shared by All
WASHINGTON, April 21, 2003-- Cong. Charles Rangel today payed tribute to Marine Staff
Sgt. Riayan Tejeda, a resident of Washington Heights who was killed in a battle in Baghdad on
"Sgt. Tejeda was a hero in every sense of the word, a man born in the Dominican
made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States," Cong. Rangel said following funeral
ceremonies at St. Elizabeth's Church in Washington Heights.
"No words can relieve the pain Sgt. Tejeda's family is suffering right
now, but they they have my
deepest sympathies and that of my family which, through my son, abides by the Marine Corps'
'Semper Fi.'" the Congressman continued. "I can only say that the gift that the Tejeda family has
given to this nation, through the sacrifice of their eldest son, has earned them a permanent debt
At the funeral, which was filled with grieving family members and friends,
Cong. Rangel sat with
a delegation of elected officials, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Assemblyman Adriano
Espaillat, and Councilman Miguel Martinez. Last week, the Congressman presented the
Tejeda family with the traditional ceremonial American flag reserved for those who have fallen
in battle for the United States.
"Even before he fell in battle, Riayan Tejeda showed his character and
overcoming the pitfalls of life in our community," Cong. Rangel said. "He has been a role model
to his family and his community. Now he is a model of heroism to our city, our nation and to the
great land of his birth."
Sgt. Tejeda, a 26-year-old father of two young children, enlisted in the
Marine Corps eight
years ago. Surviving his teen years in the rough 'n tumble Washington Heights neighborhood,
he graduated from George Washington High School. For Tejeda, like so many others,
enlistment in the Armed Forces was a source of pride and opportunity.
Noting the high percentage of Hispanics and Blacks killed in the Iraq war,
repeated his call for shared sacrifice by all social and economic groups in service to the
country. Unofficial estimates of fatalities among minorities so far in this conflict are as high 35
percent of the 128 killed, far above their representation in the national population. Historically,
since the end of the universal draft during the Vietnam War, lower income Whites and minorities
have born the disproportionate burden of service in the military.
"Sgt. Tejeda has paid the price for his willingness to place himself in
harm's way for the country
like many individuals who, ironically, have had the least opportunity to share in its wealth,"
Cong. Rangel said.
"Sgt. Tejeda did not shy away from doing his share and made the ultimate
sacrifice on behalf of
his chosen country. This is true patriotism and, rightly, a great source of pride to his grieving
family, our community and our nation," Cong. Rangel said.