Durbin Statement on Awarding of Congressional Gold Medal to the Borinqueneers

[CHICAGO] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement today after President Obama signed into law a bill that he co-sponsored awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the 65th Infantry Regiment, also known as the “Borinqueneers”:


“American minorities have a proud history of serving their county with honor and distinction, even in the face of racism and exclusion.  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.  I was fortunate enough to meet a Borinqueneer from Chicago last year, and 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 has signed it into law 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 Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor our nation can bestow.  It 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.  Durbin co-sponsored the bill awarding the medal to the Borinqueneers, which the Senate approved in March.  President Obama signed the bill into law earlier today.


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.