Members of the 65th Infantry Regiment celebrate the first National Borinqueneers Day granted by Congress – Orlando Sentinel

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For years, the legacy of struggle that the Puerto Rican members of the 65th Infantry Regiment known as the Borinqueneers have been cause for celebration. This April 13, National Borinqueneers Day will be officially celebrated thanks to the bipartisan discussion that took place in the United States Congress.

In July 2020, the United States House of Representatives passed HR 6395, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2021, which included two bipartisan amendments jointly proposed by Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR) and Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) for “supporting military veterans in Puerto Rico, who do not always receive the same treatment as veterans who reside in the United States.”

The first amendment presented by González Colón-Murphy is the one that leads to designating April 13 as “National Day of the Borinqueneers”.

“I am proud to have participated in the designation of April 13 as ‘National Borinqueneers Day’ in honor of the Puerto Rican soldiers of the 65th Infantry Regiment of the United States Army,” Murphy said.

“During the Korean War, they fought with skill and courage despite prejudices about the color of their skin and the language they spoke. As late as it may be, these men won the recognition and respect that they are now receiving from a grateful nation,” she added in statements to El Sentinel Orlando.

González Colón reiterated his pride in the “service and sacrifice of the Borinqueneers, who, without ever having voted for their commander-in-chief, as the military on the island currently do, fought selflessly and sometimes sacrificed the maximum for our country and the values ​​we hold dear”. Regarding the opportunity to designate April 13 as their national holiday, she assured that “it is another way to continue to express our gratitude to these great soldiers and their families. “.

González Colón regretted that due to the situation with COVID-19, many members were unable to travel to Washington D.C., but she said they were connected to various events that took place in places such than Puerto Rico and Florida.

The Resident Commissioner said the significance of this national holiday is that it officially recognizes the contributions and sacrifices that thousands of Puerto Rican military personnel have made to the United States military.

“It is a privilege for me as Resident Commissioner to be able to recognize the trajectory, the leadership, the strength and the legacy left by the members of the 65th Infantry Regiment and their families who fought for our nation, its freedoms,” said González Colón. “For all those veterans who join the armed forces today, they are doing so in the legacy left by the 65th Infantry, opening doors to how they fought,” she said.

The regiment distinguished itself for its bravery during the Korean War and other conflicts as it faced another personal battle: discrimination against Hispanic soldiers for not being fluent in English and sometimes even color of their skin. However, their bravery and cunning on the battlefield earned them the Congressional Gold Medal on April 13, 2016.

To recognize the contributions to the armed forces that have been made by hundreds of thousands of patriotic American citizens of Puerto Rico, the measure also received support from Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), as well as Sen. Robert Menendez (D- NJ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) who led efforts to secure a similar provision in the United States Senate on July 1, 2020.

“The Borinqueneers were brave Americans who fought for decades to defend our country. History will always honor the sacrifices these brave men and their families made to defend our freedom,” Rick Scott said in a video posted to his Twitter account.

Darren Soto (R-FL), said, “On this first National Borinqueneers Day, we honor the heroes of the 65th Infantry Regiment who, despite discrimination, bravely fought to defend the freedoms of all Americans. The Borinqueneers have never failed to demonstrate the value of their exemplary heroism, and now their legacy lives on.

Soto added that “Today, Puerto Ricans enlist in the military twice as many as people on the mainland. As we come together to honor his life of service and dedication to America, we reaffirm that his sacrifices were not in vain. May history remember you forever as patriotic heroes who represented the pride and fighting spirit of all Puerto Ricans. Today and always, we thank each of them for their service.

Rubio, who has organized several recognitions for the Borinquneers in the past, said this moment “honors the courage, the sacrifice and the courage of our fellow Americans and their service. We honor the members of the 65th Infantry Regiment of the United States Army and remember the ultimate sacrifice these soldiers made in defense of our beloved country. There is no doubt that the contribution of the Borinqueneers to our armed forces left an everlasting legacy, as well as what their heroism meant to many of us.

A group of Borinqueneers, members of the 65th Infantry Regiment, pose during a celebration in Kissimmee on National Borinqueneer Day.  Left to right standing: Albi Albertorio, son of Anibal Albertorio, Colonel Gary Grimes, Victor Vega (87), Heriberto de Jesús Toro (97), Carolyn Vega Meléndez and former Vice Mayor of Kissimmee, Wanda Rentas, Diego Meléndez (92), Gil Cintron (92), Lt. Col. Edward Fresnada, CAP, USAF and Garry Berrios from Rick Scott's office.  Seated from right to left: Angel Roura (94), Germán Perez Colón (93), Anibal Albertorio (91) and Rafael Donis (91)

To commemorate Borinqueneers Day, eight members of this distinguished team were recognized in the city of Kissimmee. Among these, Rafael Donis, who will be 91 years old and says he is happy and grateful for the recognition that has been granted to them. He said “it was a pleasure to be able to share with them [the other Borinqueneers] their achievements and know that they are appreciated.

Another of the Borinqueneers in attendance was Anibal Albertorio, who in 2016 received the replica Medal of Honor from Senator Rubio, jokingly said he was 91 and would never age. He celebrated the official commemoration of National Borinqueneers Day and said he was proud to be able to represent the name of his island and the Regiment.

Likewise, Germán Pérez Colón, who turns 93 in May, said being Borinqueneer was what gave him life and always kept him young. Meanwhile, Gil Cintrón, 92, thanked the recognition and said he was happy to celebrate it.

The event was made possible in part by Wanda Rentas, former Deputy Mayor of the City of Kissimmee. She said it has always been a passion for her, the dedication the Borinqueneers put on the field and everything they overcame. Eight of the 12 Borinqueneers who initiated the petition for this recognition were able to attend the event.

“I live through them. They are always so happy and humbled to be recognized. The stories they have from the war are traumatic, they experience horrific events and yet they are there, strong and proud,” she said.

This date was chosen because it was precisely on April 13, 2016 that some fifty Puerto Rican members of the 65th Infantry Regiment traveled to Washington to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor. from the United States

The 65th Infantry Regiment was established in 1899 and was part of a separate unit of the United States Armed Forces which fought in, among other conflicts, World Wars I and II and the Korean War.

To date, only one other Hispanic has received the Congressional Gold Medal, Puerto Rican baseball star and humanitarian Roberto Clemente.

The 65th Infantry Regiment was formed just after the First World War. It participated in a limited way in the Second World War and consolidated during the Korean War. The soldiers of the regiment earned ten Distinguished Service Crosses, 250 Silver Medals, 600 Bronze Medals and 3,000 Purple Hearts.

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