Surviving NY Borinqueneers to receive Congressional Gold Medal in livestreaming ceremony
GritoBlast! On June 10, 2014, President Barack Obama signed into law bills H.R. 1726 and S. 1174 awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the 65th U.S. Army Infantry Regiment, otherwise known as the Borinqueneers.
Who are the Borinqueneers?
The 65th U.S. Army Infantry Regiment—also known as el sesenta y cinco de infantería, originated as a Puerto Rican outfit in the form of the Battalion of Porto Rican Volunteers (May 20, 1899) in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War of 1898. In 1908, and by then a regiment, the unit officially became part of the U.S. Army. It came to be known as the Porto Rican Regiment. During WWI the regiment was sent to the Canal Zone in Panama. In 1920, the unit’s name changed to the 65th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army.
The 65th served in North Africa and Europe during World War II. Military authorities, reflecting the racial prejudice of the time, kept the regiment far from the front. The military followed a policy of racial segregation in which combat roles, with a few exceptions, were reserved for White troops. This policy had unintended consequences. As the 65th was kept from combat it underwent all kinds of training and its men and officers dutifully prepared for war. By WWII’s end the 65th was a superbly trained and well-disciplined combat regiment.
On June 24, 1950, war broke out in Korea. An unprepared U.S. military was hard-pressed for battle ready units. The 65th was mobilized and ordered to Korea. The Borinqueneers, as the men of the 65th were known, were going to war as first-line combat troops. Once in Korea, the 65th performed admirably.
The actions of the Borinqueneers during the first half of the war elevated them to iconic status- living proof of what Puerto Ricans could do when given the opportunity, showing they were second to none, inferior to no one. Then, tragedy struck. The replacement of highly-trained, combat-hardened troops with poorly trained—yet enthusiastic—recruits who spoke little English; an acute dearth of bilingual sergeants; and new Continental officers that did not speak Spanish led to tragic events during the battles of Outpost Kelly and Jackson Heights in the autumn of 1952. In the spring of 1953, the Army integrated the 65th with Continental troops and redistributed to other units the excess Puerto Rican troops.
In 1954, the 65th returned to Puerto Rico. The island had its regiment back, but not for long. It was deactivated in 1956. Colonel César Cordero, who had led the 65th during the tragic battle for Outpost Kelly, led a campaign that culminated with the reactivation and transfer of the 65th from the Army to the Puerto Rico National Guard in 1959 – where it continues to serve to this day.
What is the Congressional Gold Medal
Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned Gold Medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. Few combat units have earned this accolade. The 65th is the first unit to receive it for service during the Korean War.
On April 13, 2016 the Congressional Gold Medal (CGM) was finally unveiled in Washington D.C. at Emancipation Hall before surviving Borinqueneers and members of Congress. The medal was awarded to recognize the Borinqueneers, whom, against all odds, carried out their duties with honor and dignity.
Other CGM awardees have been the famous Tuskegee Airmen whom in WWI fought on two fronts- against Nazi Germany and against the racial prejudice to which US society and the military subjected them. The Borinqueneers, the men of the 65th, followed that tradition of fighting on two fronts, fighting for a country that treated them, at best, like second-class.
The Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony
On Sunday, July 17, nineteen New York-based Borinqueneer veterans will be present to receive their medals, and the relatives of 38 deceased Borinqueneers will receive the medals on their behalf.
The Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony will take place On July 17, 2017 at a luncheon reception at 12:00 noon at Hunter College in New York City. The ceremony begins at 1:30pm and will be livestreamed online.
The event is sponsored by the Acacia network, The Center for Puerto Rican Studies, The Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal National Committee, the New York National Guard and dozens of private donors through a go-fund me campaign.
Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony Program
Entertainment – Trio Los Platinos
Color Guard New York Army National Guard
National Anthems: Natalie Dixon, Vocalist
Master of Ceremonies Harry Franqui Rivera
Welcoming Remarks: Harry Franqui Rivera
Center for Puerto Rican Studies
Address by Speaker of City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito
Acacia Network Group
Introduction to The Borinqueneers
Video Courtesy of American Veterans Center
Korean War Legacy Foundation
Melissa Mark-Viverito (or Veterans Affairs)
Speaker of the New York City Council
En Mi Viejo San Juan
Trio Los Platinos
Roger Hernández, Jr.
East Harlem Borinqueneers
Borinqueneers Congressional Gold
Medal Ceremony National Committee
Award of Medals