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Higgins Announces House Passage of Bill Awarding Gold Medal to the Borinqueneers

May 20, 2014
Press Release
65th Infantry Regiment Was the Last Active Duty Segregated Latino Unit in U.S. History

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced House of Representatives approval of H.R. 1726, a bill awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the 65th Infantry Regiment, known as the Borinqueneers.  Higgins is a cosponsor of the bill, recognizing the service and commitment of these United States Army members who served in the segregated Hispanic unit during World Wars I & II as well as the Korean War.  

“The Borinqueneers motto ‘Honor et Fidelitas’ which is Latin for Honor and Fidelity provides a fitting illustration of what these service members truly represented,” said Congressman Higgins.  “Members of the 65th Infantry were sacrificing everything for a nation not yet embracing their own equal rights.  This bill provides formal recognition and gratitude for their loyalty, dedication and service.” 

The Borinqueeneer division was born shortly after U.S. acquisition of Puerto Rico and rededicated as the 65th Infantry Regiment of the Army in 1920.  In 1948 President Truman, by executive order, directed desegregation of the armed forces however full implementation of the policy was not yet in place when many of the servicemembers were sent into conflict during the Korean War.  

Casimiro D. Rodriguez Sr., a member of the National Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Allliance & Chairman of the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York Inc. added, “For Puerto Ricans and Hispanics all across our nation it is a very proud moment to see this long overdue recognition bestowed on our fellow Veterans of the 65th Infantry Regiment and their surviving families. Locally we have several members of our community that will be recipients of this prestigious award. Furthermore it is more rewarding to our local community that close to the first anniversary of the unveiling of the WNY Hispanic American Veterans Memorial Monument located at the Buffalo & Naval Military Park in honor of all WNY Hispanic American Veterans where at the top of the monument ellipse a special tribute to the 65th Infantry Regiment and Gabriel A. Rodriguez Post is proudly displayed,  for WNY's Hispanic Community we could not be prouder for this national connection to these latest developments."

The contributions of the Borinqueneers and other Hispanic servicemembers are already recognized locally thanks to the work of the Hispanic American Veterans of Western New York Memorial Committee who just last summer unveiled a new memorial near the Naval and Military Park along Buffalo’s waterfront.  An Extension of Remarks entered into the Congressional Record by Congressman Higgins last year recognized the Borinqueneers and the work of local organizations: https://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r113:E14JN3-0006:/.
   
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award given by Congress. It is awarded to those who have performed an achievement that has impacted American history and culture. Others receiving the medal include, but are not limited to: George Washington in 1776, Rosa Parks in 1999, Pope John Paul II in 2000, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. & Coretta Scott King in 2004, the Tuskee Airmen in 2006 and the Victims of 9/11 in 2011.  Since its inception in 1776, the Congressional Gold Medal has been awarded to only one Latino American - the Baseball Legend Roberto Clemente in 1973.  

The bill will now move to the United States Senate for consideration and approval.