Puerto Rico’s Borinqueneer veterans received the Congressional Gold Medal in a moving ceremony this week on Capitol Hill, placing the soldiers in the legendary company of the all black Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Code Talkers, among others.
“Today we are setting the record straight,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan at the beginning of the hour-long ceremony attended by hundreds about the unit considered the last segregated one in the U.S. Armed Forces.
“Lord, forgive us for segregating our Puerto Rican and Latino soldiers and for being slow to recognize them,” said Senate Chaplain Barry Black.
“I wish we could have honored you with this medal sooner,” commented Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who along with Puerto Rico delegate Pedro Pierliusi and Florida Cong. Bill Posey (R-Titusville), was one of many co-sponsors of the bill that recognized the nation’s surviving 1,000 Borinqueneers, many of whom now live in Florida.
“It’s easy to lose spirit as the good name our home is tarnished,” remarked Pierluisi, alluding to Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis. “The Borinqueneers remind me … why we’re so proud to be Puerto Rican at a time when our sense of pride has been shaken but never, never shattered. Puerto Rico has always had this nation’s back at times of crisis.”
The Borinqueneers, an Army unit created shortly after the United States took over Puerto Rico in 1898, received 250 Silver Stars, over 600 Bronze medals and more than 2,700 Purple Hearts – just in the Korean War, to which the unit added this week’s Congressional Gold Medal.
“It was the bloodiest war for Puerto Rico,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
Ret. Col. and Borinqueneer Manuel Siverio received the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of the military unit. “I accept this medal in the name of all living Borinqueneers,” Siverio said, noting that over 100 Borinqueneers remain missing in action and their remains have never been recovered.
You can watch the ceremony on C-Span by clicking: Congressional Gold Medal
˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor