US Navy To Give Veteran Cesar Chavez Funeral Rights, 22 Years Later

When he passed from this mortal coil in 1993, Cesar Chavez left behind him a life of leadership and bravery. The union organizer and hispanic community leader had spent most of his life helping the lives of low wage workers, especially those engaged in manual labor such as farming. His slogan, “Sí, se puede” (Spanish for “Yes, we can”) became a rallying cry for a nation. And when he was a teenager, he was a sailor in the US Navy.

As such, the US Navy announced that on the 22nd anniversary of his death, they would be granting him full funeral honors at his graveside. The ceremony is expected to be attended by his family, Naval officers, and members of the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

The foundation issued a statement on the announced ceremony:

Cesar endured discrimination in the Navy and at home during the ’40s. Cesar belonged to a generation of Latinos and other people of color who returned home from the service after World War II determined to see that the country for which they sacrificed fulfilled its promise of equality and freedom. That motivated him to work for civil and labor rights starting in the early ’50s.

Chavez himself described his time in the navy as the worst two years in his life. He found himself faced with bigotry of all sorts, and left the navy before he turned 20. When he died in 1993, there was no navy presence at his funeral. With the Navy’s recent recognition of the bigotry suffered not only by Chavez, but many minorities in their ranks in the past, they want to make things right. Already, the Navy has named one ship after the workers rights leader, the USNS Cesar Chavez (launched in 2012).

It is many years late, but that the US Navy is attempting to right a wrong done to so many is a step in the right direction. Indeed, racism and bigotry caused several near riots over racial tensions in the past, and was labelled as the service branch with the worst record on race relations. It is a sign of progress that we find the Navy honoring a man who fought for equality and to overcome such racism, even if it is long overdue.