How Did the Borinquneers Get Their Gold Medal?

The Borinqueneers, the 65th Infantry of the U.S. army, was a primarily Puerto Rican regiment, the only Hispanic regiment in the U.S. Army. Individual members of the regiment earned hundreds of medals for their bravery, just like other individual soldiers, but the Congressional Gold Medal that the regiment received in 2016 was a different story.

The Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Alliance (BCGMA), a volunteer organization, worked for many years to persuade Congress to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Borinqueneers. The Tuskegee Airmen, Navajo Code Talkers, Nisei Soldiers, and Montford Point Marines, other segregated units from the bad old days when segregation was legal in the United States, had already received Congressional Gold Medals. The award recognized that these units had accomplished acts of courage and distinguished service even while they were hampered by discrimination.

The BCGMA saw that the Borinqueneers should also receive the Congressional Gold Medal. With the help of volunteers across the nation, they reached out to their legislators, asking them to co-sponsor bills in both the House and Senate to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Borinqueneers.

The U.S. House of Representatives bill was introduced by Representatives Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR) and Bill Posey (R-FL).

The U.S. Senate bill was introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

Once the bills were introduced, the BCGMA continued to ask lawmakers in Congress to support the bill. The bill passed in 2014 and was signed by then President Obama. In 2016, the process was completed and the Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the Borinqueneers.

An important example

Many Americans’ hearts were moved by the efforts of the BCGMA, their volunteers, the organizations that supported them, and the legislators in Congress who took action for their cause. The process they went through sometimes seemed very long and complicated, and many people along the way expressed frustration.

Puerto Rico will soon have a new statehood bill introduced in Congress. We must follow the same path that led to the award of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Borinqueneers. We have to reach out to legislators across the country and encourage them to support the new statehood bill, just as the volunteers of the BCGMA did.

Congress makes the decision about awarding Congressional Gold Medals. It’s not up to the president or the people; it’s up to Congress. Adding a new state is also up to Congress. It’s not up to the president or the people. But Congress will listen to the people. We have to speak up and make that happen.

Contact your legislators. Tell them why they should support statehood for Puerto Rico.

3 Comments

Dennis Freytes

Hi! This was a TEAM effort, no one Organization is responsible or should get all the credit. But, the BCGMA did a good job in posting information; promoting…getting some support…. Initially, in 2011, the BCGMA worked with NAUS (National Association Uniformed Services) and other Organizations as we (Dennis Freytes and Frank Medina) started the effort in Central Florida… NAUS provided information on the Borinqueneers; got Congressman Posey, and other Congressmen; US Senators to Sponsor and Co-Sponser the BCGM bill… Then, the move for the BCGM took a life of its own… went Nationwide where the TEAM got it done! But, it is also a fact that NAUS, since 2006, started to educate on the 65th Infantry Regiment; wrote Newspaper articles (by Dennis Freytes); who also, got a resolutions passed by the Florida House and Senate…; got the Florida Governor, Korean Ambassador to the US and many others to support… to include organizing a Patriots Gathering to Honor our Borinqueneers… I can go on, but, please, don’t leave NAUS out of the picture…. THANKS! Dennis Freytes-Fl Veterans Hall of Fame

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Dennis Freytes

Please, know that Borinqueneer MSG Negron received the Medal of Honor; not depicted in the Individual Awards… Plus, many other Combat Cititations–US 65th Infantry Regiment-the Borinqueneers’ SUMMARY HISTORY:
Beginning: The U.S. 65th Infantry Regiment (Borinqueneers), Patriots of True Grit, traces its linage from the first U.S. Infantry Battalion of Puerto Rican Volunteer Troops authorized by Congress in 1899.-
In WW-I, Puerto Rico patriotically requested that the Selective Service Draft law be extended to PR-236,853 men were registered and 17,855 served with many fighting valiantly overseas for liberty; the U.S. 65th Infantry went to war strength of about 1969 men; defended the Panama Canal and other sites; while other Puerto Ricans fought overseas. Was Awarded the WW-I Victory Medal.
• Besides, the Borinqueneers fired, in 1915, the first US shots of WW-I (from el Morro Castle) on the German supply ship “Odenwald”-that was captured and re-commissioned as a US Supply Ship.
During War II- the 65th Infantry gallantly served in North Africa & Europe (Italy, France-where it saw combat action, and Germany); won the following Battle Campaign Awards:
• Naples-Foggian,
• Rome-Arne,
• Central Europe
• Rhineland Campaigns.
After the war, the 65th Infantry was assigned dangerous security, anti-sabotage and other occupation missions around Kaiserslautern & Mannheim, Germany. The Borinqueneers were among the last Units to come Home…
During the Korean War, some 61,000 Soldiers from PR served with the U.S. Army; over 6,000 with the U.S. 65th Infantry Regimental Combat Team that covered itself again in glory; distinguished themselves over a three year period: receiving the following Battle Campaign awards:,
• UN Defense-1950, UN Offense-1950,
• CCF Intervention-1950,
• First UN Counterattack Offensive-1951, UN and
• CCF Spring Offensive-1951,
• UN Summer-Fall Offensive-1951,
• 2nd Korean Winter 1951–52, Korean Summer-Fall-1952 and
• 3rd Korean Winter-1952-53.

General of the Armies Douglas MacArthur, once stated: “…the Puerto Ricans…of the gallant 65th Infantry on the battlefields of Korea by valor, determination, and a resolute will to victory give daily testament to their invincible loyalty to the United States… They write a brilliant record of achievement in battle and I am proud indeed to have them in this command. I wish that we might have many more like them!”

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Dennis Freytes

ENCLOSURE: BRIEF HISTORY-NAUS-SE BORINQUENEERS’ UNIT SUPPORT EFFORTS
The facts for the Record, are—the US 65th Infantry Borinqueneers’ Unit Congressional Gold Medal passed by our US Congress, signed by the US President; and unveiled by the US Speaker of the House and US Senate Majority and Minority Leaders was the culmination of the efforts of many that began in Florida and Puerto Rico–with NAUS-SE (Facilitating), BCGM Alliance, and others.

This just cause, then spread throughout our USA. Many were involved: Community Leaders, Civic Organizations, Individuals, and Elected Officials (Congressmen and US Senators/STAFF; Governor; Mayors; Commissioners…). All crucially supported our Borinqueneers; made the BCGM happen.

Below, the emphasis is on NAUS-SE efforts. But, again, please remember that many selfless Individuals and Organizations, starting in Florida, and Puerto Rico–then quickly taken on by others throughout our beloved USA– made it happen!

BEFORE UNIT BCGM EFFORT BEGAN: 2005+-
• The National Association Uniformed Services (NAUS) VP-SE Dennis Freytes (son of Borinqueneer Celio Freytes Menendez; Uncles Erasto Freytes and Anibal Freytes) started early to inform the Public about the US 65th Infantry –Borinqueneers.
• Wrote Borinqueneers’ Articles in the Orlando Sentinel-2006 and other MEDIA;
• Coordinated with FL Senator Darren Soto—who got the first (2007) Florida House Resolution supporting our Borinqueneers; and later a FL House and Senate Joint Resolution honoring the Borinqueneers (the first in the Nation). Plus, brought it to the attention to many Officials, Community Leaders, Civic Organizations…
• Coordinated with /US Senator Rubio (2011)—who supported the Borinqueneers-requesting US Secretary of the Army-review a Medal of Honor for SFC Cartagena; and in other ways…
• Also, provided information on the US 65th Infantry Regiment-The Borinqueneers through emails and the MEDIA; kept all informed (including US Senators; and US Congressmen) about the Borinqueneers’ brave actions in protecting our USA Flag.
• “The Borinqueneers” (for profit) Film is released, around 2008 (By Noemi Figueroa)—this along with the WEB SITE helps promote the Borinqueneers cause…

BCGM PROCESS (2012-2014-2016+) (We started at the end of 2011)
• NAUS-SE helps establish the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Alliance (BCGMA-Chair Frank Medina)- which, along other Partners, engaged Congressmen and US Senators; ignited from Florida, the Nationwide spark for the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal…
• NAUS-SE talked to US Congressman Bill Posey/Staff (whose Chief of Staff called Dennis Freytes to say the Congressman would support)–ROB Medina (Staff) was key in getting the Congressmen to support).
• We also, talked to Puerto Rico RC Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi/Staff, FL US Senator Marco Rubio (R) (Staff: Carolyn Vega/JR…), FL US Senator Nelson (D)/Staff, FL Congresspersons that include: Congressman Mica, Congressman Webster, Congressman Grayson, Congresswoman Corrine Brown…; FL Governors; Mayor of Orlando Dyer, Mayor Orange County Jacobs, various Commissioners: John Quinones (who earlier made possible a Kissimmee Park dedicated to the Borinqueneers), Com. Wanda Rentas (Kissimmee), Com. Pete Clark (Orange County), and others. Many provided Resolutions or Proclamations and other positive support…
• In 2013, Kissimmee Commissioner Wanda Rentas (a strong Borinqueneers’ supporter-Madrina) asked NAUS-SE VP-Dennis Freytes to help plan, organize, and coordinate the first large National Patriots Gathering-to Honor the Borinqueneers; support their quest for a Congressional Gold Medal conducted at the Kissimmee Civic Center): Attendance: about 67 Borinqueneers/ over 600 supporting Persons including: Florida Governor Scott (awarded the Borinqueneers the Florida Veterans’ Gold Medal), Congressmen: Posey and Grayson, FL National Guard Adjutant General, former Puerto Rico Secretary of Justice Jose Fuentes, PR Senator Miriam Ramirez, General Pagan, the Puerto Rico National Guard Band (sent by the Adjutant General Medina—who later awarded Dennis Freytes a Don Quixote Award); many Mayors, Commissioners, Dignitaries, and other Leaders.
• The efforts went Nationwide with the support of many Key Community Leaders (too many to list)
• KEY CONGRESSMEN: US Congressman Posey and RC Pedro Pierluisi were key; introduced the BCGM measure in the House (with the above Congressmen) being the initial Co-Sponsors. US Senator Blumenthal (with US Senator Marco Rubio—initial Co-Sponsor and US Sen. Bill Nelson) later introduced the measure in the US Senate.
• Besides, NAUS-SE helped get the support of the US Korean Ambassador… and many others.
• US Senators Rubio, Blumenthal, Schumer, and Menendez jointly wrote a non-partisan Letter to break the impasse in the US Senate…(based on a request from NAUS-SE and others to US Sen. Rubio)
• General Klimp (US Marine Corps, Retired)-NAUS President: sent a letter to all US Congressmen and all US Senators on behalf of the Borinqueneers; posted information on the National American Veterans NAUS Journal…; provided other support (with the NAUS Congressional Legislative Team); NAUS made contributions to the Patriots’ Gathering, and other efforts…
• Finally, after a vast TEAM effort of all Partners, the US President signed the BCGM in June 2014.
NAUS-SE-Borinqueneers Support Partners were there for the Borinqueneers, before, during the BGCM process (includes Congressional Walks; reach-outs…), and we are supporting the Borinqueneers after— BCGM tour; as we hope to work with other respectable Partners…

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