Bay of Pigs

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Arturo Cobo, Brigade 2506, Bay of Pigs, Cuba.JPG
Arturo Cobo still remembers the impatient assurance given to him by a CIA-advisor at the Guatemala training camps in the final days before the invasion.<br />
"You will own the air,'' the man testily responded in broken Spanish to all the men listening. "How many times do I have to answer this question?''<br />
"What a joke,'' said Cobo, back then a 20-year-old banker's son who was convinced that he was answering a call to duty to liberate his country. Cobo, who left Cuba in 1961, immediately signed up to join the invasion. He served in Battalion 3's infantry unit.<br />
"My father, who had a bad heart, begged me not to go. I told him I couldn't live with myself if I didn't do something to liberate my country from communism.''<br />
In the mayhem of the defeat, Cobo and another brigadista, hold the distinction of being among the last captured. The two young fighters hid in a cave for three weeks.<br />
After wandering for days in the mangrove, they were discovered by two fellow Brigade members who shared water with them, then moved on.<br />
"We were drinking our own urine out of desperation,'' said Cobo, 70. "They saved our lives.''<br />
They finally found a stream and a cave: "It became our home. I call it our condominium on the water.''<br />
Hunger lured them to a farm where they begged for food: "Immediately, I was surrounded by militia men. I kept telling the lady, please give me food before I'm taken to a firing squad."<br />
"She said, 'Oh no, dear. Don't worry. You won't be killed. The revolution has spared your life." She fed me and I ate like I'd never eaten before,'' said, Cobo, who later helped organize the Mariel Boatlift and ran the Cuban Rafter House in Key West during the 1994 balsero exodus.<br />
Cobo spent 18 months in a Cuban prison and today cherishes a gift given to him by the daughter of a fellow brigadista, Juan Peruyero, after his death -- the camouflage Brigade outfit that belonged to Peruyero. "It's one of my treasures.''