ORLANDO, Florida – March 5, 2014 – (HISPANICIZE WIRE) – Honoring the only Hispanic segregated active-duty military unit in U.S. History, the 65th Infantry Regiment “Borinqueneers,” with the Congressional Gold Medal took a major step forward Monday when the House bill (H.R. 1756) exceeded the number of required co-sponsors for bill consideration.
The U.S. House of Representatives bill, which was introduced in the spring by Representatives Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR) and Bill Posey (R-FL), would recognize the famed Borinqueneers with The Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award.
It would also ensure the Borinqueneers sit alongside other segregated military units that have rightfully received the Congressional Gold Medal including the Tuskegee Airmen, Navajo Code Talkers, Nisei Soldiers, and Montford Point Marines.
Just recently, the White House announced that President Obama will posthumously award the Congressional Medal of Honor (strictly a military decoration and different from the Gold Medal) to Borinqueneer veteran, Master Sergeant Juan Negron, along with 23 other recipients at a ceremony later this month. Master Sergeant Negron will be the first Borinqueneer veteran to be a recipient of the Medal of Honor.
“The Borinqueneers overwhelmingly distinguished themselves in battle all the while enduring the additional hardships of segregation, institutional prejudice, language barriers and other unusual obstacles,” said Frank Medina, chair of the Borinqueneer Congressional Gold Medal Alliance, a nationwide, non-partisan, grassroots group, is spearheading the charge to ensure that the 65th Infantry Regiment is memorialized through the CGM. “We thank Representatives Pierluisi and Posey for their tireless efforts to pass H.R. 1756 that will help ensure the Borinqueneers’ achievements are recorded in our nation’s history.
The next milestone needed to award the Borinqueneers with the Congressional Gold medal is to reach the minimum 67 required co-sponsors for the U.S. Senate companion bill, S. 1174; it currently has 40.That bill was introduced in June by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), on behalf of himself and Senators Elizabeth Warren, Marco Rubio, Charles Schumer, Saxby Chambliss, Bob Casey, Bill Nelson, and Bob Menendez
“We hope the example set in the House will expedite the activity in the senate and therefore accelerate the 27 more senate co-sponsors we need,” Mr. Medina, a West Point graduate and Iraqi Freedom veteran, added. Since the start of the new year, the Senate co-sponsor count has nearly doubled from 22 Senate co-sponsors. “We have seen a dramatic increase in Senate co-sponsors thanks to the very diligent and aggressive efforts of Sen. Blumenthal’s office. We urge the other original seven senators who signed up for the Borinqueneers CGM Bill and their staffers to follow suit and seek more co-sponsors among their Senate colleagues.”
If the minimum amount of co-sponsors in both chambers of Congress is not achieved by the end of the 113th Congress, the 65th Infantry Bills will have to be re-introduced and the whole daunting CGM process of rallying co-sponsors will start over as the cumulative amount of co-sponsors will not carry over from the previous Congress.
Medina added, “Along with honoring the Borinqueneer veterans, the Congressional Gold Medal will be the highest award ever for ALL Latino Veterans. This distinction will catapult Hispanic veterans into the national spotlight and will honor all Hispanic veterans past, present and future. If we do not act decisively now, we may never have this opportunity again. We must not let the 65th Infantry Regiment be a fading footnote in American history.”
Out of 155 CGM recipients since 1776, only one other Latino American has earned the prestigious distinction. Roberto Clemente, Baseball Hall-of-Famer and humanitarian, received the honor in 1973 regrettably after passing away in an airplane crash while delivering food and other supplies to then earthquake ravaged Nicaragua victims.
Among the national organizations supporting this important initiative are League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), American GI Forum (AGIF), Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), and National Puerto Rican Coalition (NPRC), Association of the US Army (AUSA), National Guard Association of the US (NGAUS), the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) and AARP.
More information on the Borinqueneers CGM Alliance and how to help the 65th Infantry CGM initiative can be found at: www.65thCGM.org. Executive sponsor of the alliance is You Are Strong! Center on Veterans Health and Human Services.