The Borinqueneers, the regiment of soldiers from Puerto Rico which distinguished itself in the Korean War, was honored yesterday in a ceremony at the capitol. The Borinqueneers fought in both world wars, and in Korea the men of the unit received one Medal of Honor, nine Distinguished Service Crosses, approximately 250 Silver Stars, over 600 Bronze Stars, and 2’771 Purple Hearts. On April 13th, surviving Borinqueneers and the families of those no longer living were given bronze copies of the Congressional Gold Medal awarded the regiment.
At the reception following the ceremony, former attorney general of Puerto Rico Jose Fuentes, representing the Puerto Rico Statehood Council, spoke. “It is high time that your dedication, sacrifice and loyalty to the Republic for which we stand be recognized,” he said to the Borinqueneers. “History has shown us that no U.S. warriors are more fierce than those who have been denied the freedom for which they fight.”
The Borinqueneers were one of the segregated regiments, the only Hispanic regiment from the time in U.S. history when ethnic segregation was legal. They faced racial prejudice even while serving their country. Segregation is part of our history now, but the men and women from Puerto Rico who serve their country today still cannot vote for their Commander in Chief. The people of Puerto Rico still do not have equality, largely because they do not have senators or congressional representatives, aside from a non-voting Resident Commissioner.
This shameful lack of participation in U.S. democracy does not keep the people of Puerto Rico from serving in the military in disproportionate numbers.
“In every battle the enemy paid dearly for redemption of Borinqueneers’ patriotism,” Fuentes said, “and the Puerto Rico Statehood Council now asks that we honor the 65th Infantry Regiment by recognizing one profound truth.”
Fuentes went on:
You fought and died for equal liberty and a way of life to pursue happiness with consent of the governed that those of you living in Puerto Rico don’t have today. There no longer can be any debate about it. National citizenship without the rights of citizenship in a state – including federal voting rights – can never be equal citizenship under our U.S. Constitution.
A majority of our fellow citizens in the territory voted in 2012 to seek Statehood.
To truly honor Borinqueneers we must resolve and commit that not another year will pass before our nation makes future statehood possible for 3.5 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico, including hundreds of thousands of veterans who fought for equal rights along with their fellow soldiers from other states in our armed forces.
Fuentes concluded, “The time has come to make the promise of the American Dream accessible to all U.S. citizens living on the Island, and culminate the promise of American Democracy by granting us Statehood now.”Culminate the promise of American Democracy by granting PuertoRico Statehood now.