Puerto Ricans may not be able to vote for President, but since Puerto Rico became part of the United States in 1898, they have been proudly serving in the U.S. Armed Force. Yesterday, legislation was introduced to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the 65th Infantry Regiment, a regiment of the U.S. Army based in Puerto Rico nicknamed “The Borinqueneers.”
Puerto Ricans have served with honor and distinction in every major war of the 20th Century, including World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. But it was in the Korean War that the Borinqueneers made a name for themselves.
More than 60,000 Puerto Ricans served in the Korean War, and they often faced some of the most dangerous conditions. Over 700 Puerto Ricans lost their lives in the Korean War, many in what is credited as the last battalion-sized bayonet assault in U.S. Army history. In all, heroic members of the 65th were awarded 2,771 Purple Hearts, 606 Bronze Stars, 256 Silver Stars, and 10 Distinguished Service Crosses.
As Gumersindo Gomez, one of the advocates of the Congressional Gold Medal for the Borinqueneers, explains, “I think it is important for them to get these recognitions because a lot of people have no idea how much Puerto Ricans have sacrificed for this country,” Gomez said. “They were not there defending Puerto Rico; they were there representing and defending the United States.”
While congressional recognition of the Borinqueneers is well-deserved, another fitting tribute to their service and sacrifice would be for Congress to provide equal rights and representation to the nearly 4 million Americans who call Puerto Rico home.
You can read more about the effort to honor the Borinqueneers with the Congressional Gold Medal at the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Alliance, or watch the short video at the end of this post. A feature-length documentary titled “The Borinqueneers” (see photo above) was also released in 2007.
Learn more about what We the People Project is doing to achieve equal rights and representation for Puerto Ricans and other Americans living in U.S. territories and the District of Columbia at www.equalrightsnow.org.