Veterans of the Army's 65th Infantry Regiment, an all-Puerto Rican unit that proved its courage and outstanding abilities in combat and later became known as the "Borinqueneers," will be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal next month.
House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that on April 13 a ceremony will be held in Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol to award the Congressional Gold Medal to surviving Borinqueneers and to honor the memories of those who have died.
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Arcadio Santiago-Rodriguez, a 92-year-old Borinqueneer who lives in Palm Bay, plans to attend the ceremony.
"He's excited about it," said his son Richard Santiago.
Santiago-Rodriguez' wife, Bernarda Santiago, said her husband, who was recovering from an illness, was very happy at the news of the award ceremony. She plans to accompany him to the event.
In June 2014, President Barack Obama signed into law a bipartisan, bicameral bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Bill Posey and Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, of Puerto Rico, to formally recognize the service and sacrifices made by the soldiers by presenting them with the highest civilian award that Congress can bestow.
"This is a historic occasion, and I would like to express my gratitude to the soldiers of the 65th Infantry Regiment known as the Borinqueneers for their service and the great sacrifices they have made for our nation and the cause of freedom," Posey said in a statement.
Pierluisi, who represents Puerto Rico in the U.S. House, said the Borinqueneers are a source of tremendous pride for the U.S. citizens 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, especially Congressman Posey, we were able to get this bill passed," he said .
The 65th Infantry Regiment was created by Congress in 1898 as an all-Puerto Rican segregated unit. The men overcame bias and proved their abilities when called upon to serve the nation in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War,.
During the now-famous Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, the Borinqueneers fought alongside the First Marine Division, covering them through what was recognized as one of the greatest strategic withdrawals in military history.
As a unit, they earned a Presidential Unit Citation, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and two Republic of Korea Unit Citations, including personal praise from General MacArthur when they were called to the front lines of the Korean War. Individuals within the regiment were also awarded the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, and the Bronze Star.