The day was Monday, April 17, 1961.
To the vast majority of Americans it was another spring day, with families looking forward to their summer vacations and family road trips. And with the coming of spring, the baseball season was underway.
In sharp contrast, spring would never arrive to 1,500 brave men. These men were about to encounter a life-threatening experience well beyond anything they had been through before — the Bay of Pigs.
Besieged by a communist dictatorship, these men were intent to bring the winds of change to Cuba. They spent months in training under the direction of our government acquiring a variety of military skills.
Ready, able and willing the day had arrived. It was an amphibious invasion on beachheads at the Bay of Pigs, Playa Girón and Playa Larga, located on the southern side of Cuba.
Paratroopers were also deployed. The amphibious force was organized by battalions. Focused and energized to break the dictator’s brutal stranglehold, little did they know their valor and sacrifice would be for naught. Not having received the vital military air support from the United States they fully expected, their confrontation quickly became surreal.
However, even in the face of great adversity, they took on the enemy and stood their ground to the best of their abilities. Their collective fortitude proved to the world that even in the face of defeat they stood taller than their foes.
Against great odds, they held the beachhead, but it became painfully evident that they would fall prisoners to a despotic and brutally punishing regime. Gone were their hopes and dreams of rescuing a people from what would be more than five decades of a suffocating existence.
My father, Ramon Rodriguez, then 32 and a 2506 Brigade member, was chief operator of continuous wave (radiotelegraphy) at Playa Girón. The communication equipment he was supposed to use never made it to the beachhead.
Two days later on April 19th, he was able to use communication equipment that was air-dropped.
My father transmitted, “We need help, we need help.” But the response he received was “Wait.”
Captured by Cuban soldiers, they were paraded around like common criminals for all to see. The communist regime’s objective was to shame them and ultimately break these brave men. They were subjected to a so-called hearing which resulted in 30 year prison sentences and included hard labor.
For many, these sentences exceeded their own ages. Their lives hung in the balance; imprisoned without knowing how their lives would play out. More than 1,000 men were imprisoned for 20 months.
That fall, baseball fans watched the New York Yankees beat the Cincinnati Reds four games to one on Oct. 9, 1961 to win the World Series. Families throughout our country would be gathering the following month for Thanksgiving.
But for the imprisoned men of the 2506 Brigade, only despair was staring them in the face, and Christmas was now a distant memory.
Today, we would have a multitude of video clips, photographs, footage and audio which would have further shown the grave injustice these men were subjected to. Justice, however, eluded them. No fair trial, no fair hearings — the full truth of their suffering extinguished with the passage of time. In the end, their emptiness remains as a haunting reminder of their failed attempts to secure freedom. Their personal tribulations have fallen through the cracks in time.
The Bay of Pigs quickly became a multitude of stories which finger-pointed fault. But the real story is that of these brave men who sacrificed and suffered a great deal.
What memorandums on stationary attempted to explain and spin to justify extremely poor judgment pales in comparison to what these men have been through. Their physical and mental lesions and scars were ignored and cast aside like a bad memory; but those scars never went away and have greatly affected these men to this day.
They sacrificed their lives to rescue others and now are well deserving to be rescued from their years of suffering and despair. Their pain was considered disposable and without any need of reparation. After all, our lives must go on.
But what about their lives? This is not what our great nation stands for. To turn our backs to this human tragedy cuts against the grain of our most fundamental principles of decency and justice.
Now, these men eagerly await deserving changes to their lives. They have tried in the past unsuccessfully to obtain relief for the years of suffering that ensued after the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Once again spring is upon us, a new baseball season has begun, and the men from the 2506 Brigade will once again press forward until they find their well-deserved justice.
This article was written by Miami attorney Ramon M. Rodriguez.