Ron DeSantis Honors Felix Rodríguez-Mendigutía With the Governor’s Medal of Freedom

Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis awarded Felix I. Rodríguez-Mendigutía with the Governor’s Medal of Freedom, the highest honor in the state of Florida, to recognize his contribution to the cause of freedom around the world and continued involvement in Florida’s rich Cuban-American culture.

The governor was joined by Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez at the Brigade 2506 Museum and Library.

“Felix’s life has been dedicated to fighting communism, to supporting freedom, to supporting liberty, and we appreciate Felix as a brave and courageous freedom fighter,” said DeSantis. “From his service as a paramilitary officer with the Central Intelligence Agency during the Bay of Pigs Invasion to a Colonel in the United States Army at the height of the Vietnam War, Felix has marked his legacy as one of the bravest fighters for freedom in history. I am honored to award Felix the Governor’s Medal of Freedom and may God bless him and the great state of Florida.”

“I was proud to join Governor DeSantis to honor Felix Rodríguez for his service, bravery, and commitment to freedom everywhere,” said Nuñez. “As a Cuban American, I am incredibly grateful for Felix and the soldiers of the Bay of Pigs who fought to liberate Cuba from the Castro regime. As we recognize Felix with the Medal of Freedom, we also remain committed to doing anything we can to help the people of Cuba who fight for their God-given rights against the tyrannical dictatorship.”

Felix Rodríguez was born in Cuba in 1941, and while studying in the United States at the age of 13, he witnessed the Communist government seize his family’s possessions and oppress his home country, sparking his passion for service and freedom. His service to the United States began in 1960 when he joined Brigade 2506 – a group of Cuban exiles that would later carry out the Bay of Pigs Invasion. As a paramilitary officer with the Central Intelligence Agency’s Special Activities Division, Rodríguez was smuggled into Cuba prior to the invasion for intelligence gathering. Later, Rodríguez assisted with the capture and execution of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara in Bolivia. After becoming a United States citizen in 1969, he enlisted in the Army at the height of the Vietnam War, achieving the rank of Colonel. Rodríguez’s service has earned him recognition across the world, including the C.I.A.’s Intelligence Star, one of the most elite awards for extreme heroism in the most hazardous conditions, and nine Crosses for Gallantry from the Republic of Vietnam.

DeSantis issued a proclamation recognizing Thursday, September 16, 2021, as Felix I. Rodríguez-Mendigutía Day in Florida.

The governor’s Medal of Freedom was established by Section 14.35, Florida Statutes, which allows the governor to recognize any person who has made an especially meritorious contribution to the interests and citizens of the state, its culture, or other significant public or private endeavor.

The late Coach Bobby Bowden (1929-2021) was the inaugural recipient of the Governor’s Medal of Freedom on April 7, 2021.

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