A Congressional Gold Medal for the Borinqueneers: A Team Effort

Ipms_Borinqueneers_logoOn Tuesday, June 10th, President Obama will sign into law a bill to award the Borinqueneers the Congressional Gold Medal.

The news came in a press release from Rep. Pedro Pierluisi, who said,

At last, justice is being done.  The 65th Infantry Regiment will join baseball star and humanitarian Roberto Clemente as the only Hispanics in the history of this country ever to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the highest form of recognition that Congress can bestow on a group or individual for outstanding and enduring achievement.

The bill, sponsored by Pierluisi and Rep. Posey (R-FL) in the House and by Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) in the Senate, began as a grassroots organization, the Borinqueneers CGM Alliance (BCGMA),  founded by former Army Captain and Iraq War veteran, Frank Medina.

With support from the You Are Strong! (YAS!) Center for Veterans Health and Human Services , AARP, NCLR,  LULAC, and from the Republic of Korea, the BCGMA brought the issue to the attention of legislators and supported the passage of the bill. Much of the current press coverage for the issue is based on a statement released by this group, but some news sources have taken a step further.

MassLive interviewed a Borinqueneer, Arcadio Torres, last year, and referenced the interview in their coverage of the bill. Unfortunately, Torres did not live to see the success of the efforts to bring recognition to the 65th Regiment. His memories were sometimes harsh, but Torres, though nearing the end of his life at the time of his interview, said that he would do it again.

“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,” Gumersindo Gomez, who has been personally working toward recognition of the 65th Regiment was quoted as saying. “They were not there defending Puerto Rico; they were there representing and defending the United States.”

The We the People Project, dedicated to equal rights for all citizens, regardless of residence, wrote about the legislation when it was introduced. The National Council of La Raza wrote about it for Veterans Day. The Orlando Latino celebrated the upcoming victory last month. Some major news organizations such as the New York Times and the Washington Post have not yet focused on this issue, but this is an important moment for Americans in general. By honoring the last of the segregated military units, America can acknowledge the service provided under that shameful system and look forward to a future of equality for all citizens.

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