Rivera, Manuel, Jr., Capt

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 Service Details
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Last Rank
Last Primary MOS
7509-Pilot VMA-AV-8B Qualified
Last MOSGroup
Pilots/Naval Flight Officers
Primary Unit
1988-1991, 7509, VMA-331
Service Years
1981 - 1991



 Last Photo 
 Personal Details 

Home State
New York
New York
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Cpl Randy Styner to remember Marine Capt Manuel Rivera, Jr..

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Casualty Info
Home Town
Last Address
Bronx, NY

Casualty Date
Jan 22, 1991
Non Hostile- Died Other Causes
Air Loss, Crash - Land
Gulf War
Location of Interment
Calverton National Cemetery - Calverton, New York
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Section 14 Site 966

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Gulf War Fallen
  2015, Gulf War Fallen

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Pilot Wings

 Unit Assignments
  1988-1991, 7509, VMA-331
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1990-1991 Gulf War
 Colleges Attended
  1978-1980, Dowling College
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
Rivera was born in the Bronx section of the City of New York. In the 1950s, Manuel's parents moved from Puerto Rico in search of a better way of life. They settled down in the borough of the Bronx in New York and rented a low income apartment in a public housing project. The Bronx is a tough place to grow up in but, Manuel was only interested in obtaining a good education and in becoming a pilot. He was a good student and as a young man joined the Boy Scouts, eventually becoming an Eagle Scout.[1] After finishing his primary education, he enrolled and attended Aviation High School pursuing his ambition of becoming a pilot.

After graduating from high school, Manuel attended Dowling College in Long Island and earned his Bachelors Degree.


He joined the United States Marine Corps in 1981, following in the footsteps of his father, Manuel Rivera, Sr. who was a Marine during the Vietnam War. He was sent to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina where he underwent basic training. From there he was sent to the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. He graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant and continued his training at the Naval Aviation Flight Training School where he earned his pilot "wings".


Manuel, who was eventually promoted to the rank of Captain, had planned on applying for admission to NASA as an astronaut candidate. However, he was assigned to VMA-331 upon the outbreak of Operation Desert Shield. He served as personnel officer, intelligence officer and logistics officer. He flew in many support missions.

On January 22, 1991, Capt. Manuel Rivera was killed during a support mission over the Persian Gulf when his AV-8B Harrier smashed into the Omani coastline while approaching the deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA-4) for a landing.


On January 30, 1991, the United States House of Representatives paid tribute to Capt. Manuel Rivera and on May 9, 1991, the Hon. James H. Scheuer of the House of Representatives also paid tribute to the fallen soldier. P.S. 279 (Public School 279) was renamed P.S. 279 Capt. Manuel Rivera, Jr honoring his memory. Also, a street, park and public housing project were named after him in the South Bronx.[2] His name was engraved in "El Monumento de la Recordacion" (Monument of Remembrance), dedicated to Puerto Rico's fallen military members and situated in front of the Capitol Building in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and unveiled by Puerto Rico Senate President Kenneth McClintock and PR National Guard Adjutant General Col. David Carrión on Memorial Day, 2007.


Obituary from The New York Chronicle 11 Aug 1982

THERESA RIVERA, the mother of Capt. Manuel Rivera Jr., the first New York City resident and the first Hispanic person known to have died in the Persian Gulf war, wants to make sure his name endures.

At a ceremony today with Mayor DAVID N. DINKINS, Borough President FERNANDO FERRER of the Bronx and a Marine color guard, a group of subsidized middle-income houses at Brook Avenue and 145th Street in the Bronx will be named for Captain Rivera. And four scholarships bearing his name will be awarded to graduates of Bronx high schools.

These are just the latest memorials to Captain Rivera, an Eagle Scout and handball champion who grew up to become a Marine Corps pilot and who died on Jan. 22, 1991, in a training exercise over the gulf.

"Beside the houses, there is also a playground, a junior high school, a library, four military scholarships, another housing project and the Bronx hub station where all the buses start their routes named for him," LYDIA RIVERA, one of the captain's three sisters, said yesterday. "The aircraft he originally flew is on permanent display on the Intrepid, and at the Cherry Point Marine Corps base in North Carolina, there is a monument and a plaza named for him."

Many of the memorials grew out of efforts by Theresa Rivera, who knocked on all kinds of doors. "The more things that are dedicated in his honor that can benefit children, the happier and easier it becomes for my mother," Lydia Rivera said. "As long as children benefit from this tragedy, it helps my mother through the pain and suffering."

.998 acre

This playground honors Captain Manuel Rivera, Jr. (1959-1991), a South Bronx native and one of the first casualties of the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991). Rivera grew up in the nearby John Adams Houses in Melrose. From a young age, his goal was to become a pilot. By age 26, the ambitious young man had finished flight training, ascending the ranks of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Rivera died in action on January 22, 1991, when his Harrier jet crashed during a training run over the Gulf. Hundreds of South Bronx residents gathered at St. Anselm?s Church to mourn the death of a local hero and community leader, the first New Yorker lost in the Persian Gulf.

As one of the highest-ranking Latino officers in the military at the time, Rivera was a symbol of success to many in the Forest Avenue area and the South Bronx. Not one to rest on his laurels, Rivera had been pursuing new goals when he died. An aspiring astronaut, he had recently been selected by NASA for training. After his death, President George H. Bush (b. 1924, President 1989-93) spoke of the South Bronx native as ?an accomplished Marine pilot? who ?has taken his place in the stars, so that we might find a better way on Earth.? A scholarship named for Rivera, sponsored by Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo and L&M Equity, is awarded annually to similarly high-achieving Latino students.

This playground site, on Forest Avenue and East 156th Street, was ceded to the City in 1958 and developed as parkland almost immediately. On February 13, 1959 the playground opened as the St. Mary?s Houses Playground. On April 15, 1991, less than three months after Captain Rivera?s death, Council Members Castaneira-Colon, Ward, Robles, and Vallone sponsored a local law renaming the park in his memory.

In 1991, Mayor Giuliani funded a $922,075 renovation that added new sky-blue and brick-red basketball courts to the existing play equipment, a flagpole with a yardarm, a comfort station, and handball courts that Rivera enjoyed in his youth. Other new additions to the playground included a stepped amphitheater, a kiosk, an adult fitness course, a spray shower, new play surfaces, and game tables.
Capt Rivera was flying during during a practice amphibious landings off of Oman. The engine of his AV-8B fouled resulting in crashing so fast he could not eject.

Laid down at Calverton National Cemetery
210 Princeton Boulevard Rt 25
Calverton , NY 11933
Buried At: Section 14 Site 966

Semper Fi
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