After years of grassroots efforts, the Congressional Gold Medal will be awarded to the U.S. Army’s 65th Infantry Regiment, the Borinqueneers, Wednesday, April 13th, 2016, at 3:00 p.m. in Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol building.
The Borinqueneers sprang from the first volunteer regiment established in Puerto Rico in 1899. They were officially established in the 20th century as the only Hispanic regiment in U.S. history, and when they were decommissioned in the 1950s when segregated regiments became illegal, they were transferred to the Puerto Rico National Guard as a division. It is therefore possible to trace the history of the regiment for a full 117 years. The 65th Infantry Regiment served in World War I and World War II, and was particularly distinguished in the Korean War, when the regiment received two Presidential Unit Citations in addition to many individual honors, including one Medal of Honor, nine Distinguished Service Crosses, 250 Silver Stars, over 600 Bronze Stars, and more than 2,700 Purple Hearts.
The Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor given by the U.S. Congress, will be struck and presented to the Smithsonian, which plans a traveling exhibition before placing the medal in the permanent collection. Bronze replicas will be presented to the Borinqueneers who are still living, and to the family member of those who are no longer living. Ceremonies will also be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and in Orlando, Florida, to honor those Borinqueneers who are unable to attend the ceremony in Washington, D.C. Local ceremonies are also planned in various other cities across the nation on the same day. The ceremony at the Capitol will also be livestreamed on www.speaker.gov/live.
“The Borinqueneers are a source of tremendous pride for the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico,” said Pedro Pierluisi, the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico. “They personify the qualities of courage, hard work, resilience, brotherhood, and patriotism. I am so glad that, with the help of many people inside and outside of Congress, we were able to get this bill passed.”
Pierluisi will speak at the ceremony, as will Congressman Bill Posey of Florida, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Speaker Ryan, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.