On April 13 , 2016, a formal Congressional Ceremony honoring the Borinqueneers will take place in Washington, D.C. A Congressional Gold Medal will be struck and unveiled during the ceremony and later placed in the Smithsonian. At a reception that evening, bronze replicas of the medal will be given to the surviving members of the Borinqueneers and to family members of those no longer living. Wreaths will be placed at the Borinqueneers memorial as well as the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
On the same day, a ceremony will take place at El Morro Fortress in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and a gala reception will be held in Orlando, Florida. These two cities have the largest numbers of Borinqueneers among their residents, and the ceremonies in these places will honor those who are unable to travel to Washington D.C. Local communities across the nation are also planning ceremonies, to ensure that every Borinqueneer (or surviving family member) receives a replica medal.
On June 10th 2014, President Obama signed Public Law 113-120, which awarded a Congressional Gold Medal to the 65th Infantry Regiment, the “Borinqueneers,” a regiment of Puerto Ricans serving in the U.S. Army. This regiment was formed in 1920, at a time when segregation (separate rules for people of different ethnic backgrounds) was legal in the United States, and it continued until it was deactivated when segregation became illegal. The group from which the regiment was formed had been in existence since 1899, and the entire regiment was transferred to the Puerto Rican National Guard in 1959, so the Borinqueneers may be said to have served for more than 117 years. This was the only Hispanic regiment in U.S. history.
During the regiment’s long history, the Borinqueneers served valiantly, gaining two Presidential Unit Citations for their service during the Korean War and many honors for individual acts of bravery. More than 20,000 men served in the regiment.
A Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award in the United States is given to Americans whose achievements are of historical importance. Congressional Gold Medals have also been awarded to the Native American Code Talkers, the Japanese-American 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Infantry Regiment, and the African-American Tuskegee Airmen and Montford Point Marines. The Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Alliance worked for years to make sure that the Borinqueneers were also honored, and continues to work to complete their mission and to educate Americans about the Borinqueneers.
A traveling exhibition, planned with the Smithsonian Institution, is planned, along with an educational outreach project. The BCGMA seeks donations for these undertakings, and we hope you will join us in sponsoring their efforts. Americans should know about the Borinqueneers and their service.
The painting illustrating this post was painted by Dominic D’Andrea, commissioned by the National Guard Heritage Foundation, and is in the public domain.