- Honored at Capitol Hill
- Celebrated in New York National Puerto Rican Parade and in Chicago Puerto Rican People’s Parade
- Memorialized by Norwegian American Hospital and Hispanic Housing with Latino New Housing
On May 22, the US Senate passed a bill awarding the 65th Regiment, known as the Borinqueneers, the Congressional Medal of Honor. The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature. The following is a partial statement issued by the Congressional Gold Medal Alliance which led the national grass roots effort to bestow this honor.
The campaign to raise awareness of the Borinqueneers has been felt in many cities in the Puerto Rican diaspora.In New York, the National Puerto Rican Parade, to be held ion Sunday, June 8, is paying special tribute to the Borinqueneers.
In Chicago, the following 2 major developments to memorialize the Borinqueneers have been undertaken: 1) Hispanic Housing and Norwegian American Hospital have partnered to create a housing complex for Latino veterans which will be named the “The Borinqueneers”; 2) the Annual Puerto Rican Parade will be dedicated to the Borinqueneers along with the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the opening of Roberto Clemente Community Academy.
“Honoring the only Hispanic segregated active-duty military unit in U.S. History, the 65th Infantry Regiment “Borinqueneers,” with the Congressional Gold Medal took a major leap forward this week when both House Bill (HR 1726) and Senate Bill (S. 1174) both passed their respective chambers.
As the Memorial Day weekend looms, the 65th Infantry Regiment known as the “Borinqueneers” achieved two major milestones in achieving the nation’s highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal (CGM). The U.S. Senate bill S. 1174 which authorizes the “Borinqueneers” with the CGM passed today by unanimous vote. On Monday, the House companion bill H.R. 1726, also passed unanimously. These two milestones unfolded about year’s timeframe from when both bills were originally introduced in their respective chambers. The CGM recognition parallels the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is awarded less frequently and is arguably more rigorous due to its stringent legislative requirements. The Borinqueneers CGM legislation is now on its path to the White House for President Obama’s signature.
The movement behind this cause primarily originated with a grassroots volunteer group called the “Borinqueneers CGM Alliance” (BCGMA) founded by former Army Captain and Iraq War veteran, Frank Medina and sponsored by the You Are Strong! (YAS!) Center for Veterans Health and Human Services.
Frank recounts, “It’s amazing how the collective and cumulative efforts from devoted individuals and organizations around the country culminated in this landmark achievement. The 65th CGM cause transcended all races, ethnicities, nationalities in unifying for a noble and righteous cause. Volunteers encompassed Anglos, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Native-Americans, Colombians and various others…This could not have happened without their aggressive ‘boots on ground’ support…”
Medina also adds, “I want to express my deepest appreciation to our Congressional sponsors, Rep. Pierluisi, Rep. Posey, and Sen. Blumenthal along with their superb staffers. They tackled and shouldered the lion’s share of this endeavor and I it was very fortuitous that our joint efforts were complimentary. Without their tenacity, this could not have been possible…”
Awarding the CGM to the Borinqueneers will sit alongside other segregated military units that have rightfully received the Congressional Gold Medal including the Tuskegee Airmen, Navajo Code Talkers and many other Native American tribes, Nisei Soldiers, and Montford Point Marines.”
The history of the 65th Infantry goes back to 1899 after the US invasion of Puerto Rico and the ceding by Spain of the island following the Spanish American War. The unit participated in WW I, II and most notably, the Korean War. A remnant battalion from the 65th Infantry still resides in the Puerto Rican National Guard. At the onset of the Korean War, the 65th Infantry dubbed themselves the anglicized nickname “Borinqueneers” after the island of Puerto Rico’s indigenous name “Borinquen” meaning “Land of the Noble People”.