Durbin Says Congressional Gold Medal for Borinqueneers is "Long Overdue and Well Deserved"

[CHICAGO] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) visited the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture on Tuesday and honored four local veterans from the 65th Infantry Regiment, also known as the “Borinqueneers”, who recently earned the Congressional Gold Medal -- the highest civilian honor our nation can bestow. Durbin co-sponsored the legislation awarding the medal to the Borinqueneers, which the Senate approved in March, and President Obama signed the bill into law early last month. The Congressional Gold Medal is awarded as a national expression of gratitude to men and women who perform outstanding acts of service that advance the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States of America.

“American minorities have a proud history of serving their county with honor and distinction, even in the face of racism and exclusion,” Durbin said. “As the largest and longest-standing segregated unit in our military’s history, the 65th Infantry Regiment is no different. From World War I to Korea, the Borinqueneers represented the U.S. and Puerto Rico proudly, often among the first into battle and the recipients of numerous awards and commendations.

“These brave men deserve recognition befitting their contributions to our Armed Forces. The unit’s story is truly one of service and honor beyond even the usual high standards to which we hold our men and women in uniform. I was proud to sign my name to the bill awarding this Congressional Gold Medal and I’m glad President Obama signed it into law three weeks ago today. The Borinqueneers now join the ranks of the Tuskegee Airmen, the Navajo Code Talkers, and other distinguished minority units who have received the Gold Medal. This day is overdue but well-deserved, and I congratulate the Borinqueneers on their honor.”

The 65th Infantry Regiment was originally formed as a battalion of volunteer infantry in Puerto Rico in 1899 and first saw combat in World War I. The unit fired the first shot of the war by U.S. regular armed forces while defending the harbor of San Juan against a ship flying the colors of the Central Powers. Members of the Regiment also served in World War II and, with particular distinction, in the Korean War, where they earned 10 distinguished Service Crosses, 256 Silver Stars, 606 Bronze Stars and 2,771 Purple Hearts by war’s end.