SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Coast Guard paid tribute posthumously to Chief Warrant Officer Joseph B. Avilés during a dedication ceremony at Coast Guard Sector San Juan Tuesday naming the new Fast Response Cutter and Engineering Building in his honor.
“Today we honor one of our finest, a native son of Naranjito, Puerto Rico who was a great man and a distinguished Coast Guardsman, Chief Warrant Officer Joseph B. Avilés,” said Capt. Robert W. Warren, Sector San Juan commander. “As we name our newest building, it takes on even further significance, not only for representing the unfolding next chapter in our Service’s promising future, but also for representing the greatness and legacy of its past.”
The ceremony was attended by fellow Coast Guardsman from Sector San Juan as well as three generations of the Avilés family including his son, his grandson and his great grandson.
The highlight of the event occurred when the son of Chief Warrant Officer Avilés, Joseph Avilés Jr., had the honor of unveiling the plaque dedicating the new facility to his father and placing it inside the building, where people may see and learn about his father’s life, service and accomplishments in the Coast Guard.
“We knew much of Pop’s early life but viewed it as a personal history of great interest only to our family,” said Joseph Avilés Jr. “After hearing the results of the intensive Coast Guard search into his life and naval career and the honors bestowed upon him, we were surprised, overwhelmed, and finally very delighted. We are glad to share Pop with others.”
Chief Warrant Officer Joseph B. Avilés (1896-1990), served the United States for more than 31 years, through both World War I and World War II. Born in Naranjito, Puerto Rico, Avilés served in the U.S. Navy for 10 years prior to joining the U.S. Coast Guard in 1925. Later that same year he was advanced to Chief Gunner’s Mate, and became the first Hispanic Chief Petty Officer in the Coast Guard. In 1943, he was awarded a World War II wartime promotion that also made him the Coast Guard’s first Hispanic Chief Warrant Officer. Avilés retired from active duty service in 1946 and lived with his family in Staten Island, New York and later in Baltimore, Maryland. At the age of ninety-four, he passed away and was buried with full military honors at the Baltimore National Cemetery.
The Chief Warrant Officer Joseph B. Avilés Fast Response Cutter and Engineering Support Building represents the best in modern civil engineering and design. This state of the art, $9 million-dollar and 15,900 square-foot facility adds significant capacity and capability to the support structure of six new 154-foot Sentinel Class cutters that are being home-ported in San Juan, Puerto Rico and their crews, who serve on the front lines of Coast Guard operations in the Eastern Caribbean.