A years-long effort to award the Congressional Gold Medal to a group of mostly Puerto Rican veterans who fought in the Korean War is finally coming to an end.
The United States Senate on Thursday passed a bill to award medal to the U.S. Army’s 65th Infantry Regiment.
Known better as the Borinqueneers, the soldiers – and a number of lawmakers – have lobbied tirelessly for years to recognize the military regiment with the Congressional Gold Medal. The Senate bill, which was passed by the House earlier this week, paves the way for President Obama to sign the measure, which he is expected to do within 10 days.
“I am overjoyed that the Borinqueneers—the pride of Puerto Rico and of Puerto Ricans everywhere—will receive this profound expression of national gratitude in recognition of their courage, skill and patriotism,” Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi said in a statement. “The fact that it took many years to arrive at this moment does not diminish the sweetness of the moment itself. “
Along with Pierluisi – a non-voting member of the House – the bill was introduced last year by Congressman Bill Posey (R-Fla.)
“I want to thank Congressman Posey, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and all the other Senators and Members of Congress who made passage of this legislation possible,” Pierluisi said. “I also want to thank the many individuals and grassroots organizations who have been so devoted to this cause, raising public awareness about the Borinqueneers, communicating with their elected officials, and urging support for this legislation.”
During the Korean conflict in the early 1950s, the 65th Infantry Regiment worked as a segregated unit, and its servicemen were awarded 10 Distinguished Service Crosses, 256 Silver Stars, 606 Bronze Stars and 2,771 Purple Hearts.
But when the Puerto Rican soldiers returned to the U.S., they were not given the same care and benefits that other soldiers received after they retired from active duty.
“I hope it brings great joy and pride to the surviving Borinqueneers and to the families of the Borinqueneers who have passed away.” Pierluisi said.
Four other military units previously have received the Congressional Gold Medal collectively: the Native American Navajo Wind Talkers, the Japanese-American Nisei Soldiers and the African-American Tuskegee Airmen and Montford Point Marines. The Women’s Air Service Pilots (WASPs) have also received the medal.