An Army regiment made up of Puerto Rican soldiers is, at long last, getting the recognition it long has sought.
About five decades after they were disbanded, veterans of the 65th Infantry Regiment will be honored on April 13 at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., when a Congressional Gold Medal honoring the unit is unveiled.
The regiment, which is known by the nickname “Borinqueneers,” fought and served in World War I, World War II and the Korean conflict.
Borinqueneer soldiers boast one Medal of Honor, nine Distinguished Service Crosses, approximately 250 Silver Stars, more than 600 Bronze Stars and some 2,700 Purple Hearts.
“The ceremony on April 13th will be extraordinarily significant and emotionally moving because Congress — on behalf of a grateful nation — will formally recognize the surviving soldiers of the 65th Infantry Regiment and honor the memory of those members of the unit who have passed away,” said Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico's delegate to Congress, in a statement.
“The Borinqueneers are a source of tremendous pride for the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico,” he added. “They personify the qualities of courage, hard work, resilience, brotherhood and patriotism.”
The regiment is the last segregated group to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award in the United States. The black Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Code Talkers received the award previously.
In signing a bipartisan bill in 2014 to award them the medal, President Barack Obama said it “honors military heroes from our history.”
Less than 70 of the veterans are still alive, most of them settled in Florida and Puerto Rico.
Last year, Sen. Marco Rubio, who had pushed for the bill authorizing the medal, criticized the length of time it was taking to produce it. In a letter to Obama, Rubio noted that several Borinqueneers in Florida had died since the day the bill was signed, and they never got to see the medal they spent most of their life hoping to receive.
“The Borinqueneers fought hard for our nation, and, given their age, many of them are concerned they will never see the Congressional Gold Medal,” wrote Rubio, a Florida Republican.
George Cecala, communications director and deputy chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, a Florida Republican who was a main sponsor of the bill seeking the medal, said that such endeavors usually take a long time from start to finish.
“It’s a long process,” Cecala told Fox News Latino. “To bring something like this from a proposal to a law and from law to bringing the actual medal takes a long time.”
The ceremony is planned for Emancipation Hall in the Capitol building. Among those scheduled to attend are members of the regiment, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California).
“We’re really excited about this,” Rob Medina, director of community and military relations for Posey, told FNL. “It’s exciting for the Puerto Rican community as a whole.”
Medina, who is Puerto Rican and served in the U.S. Marines, recalls growing up listening to his parents talk about the Borinqueneers. Medina was part of the effort by Puerto Ricans in the military to ensure that the Borinqueneers got the Congressional Gold Medal.
Medina said the medal, which will be assigned to the Smithsonian Institution, will be taken around the country on a tour.