In April 2016, the U.S. Army’s 65th Infantry Regiment was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. And, as part of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress designated April 13 as Borinqueneers Day.
Members of the 65th Infantry Regiment fought in both World Wars and the Korean War and were known as “The Borinqueneers” and “el sesenta y cinco de infantería.”
“Borinqueneers” is the combination of the words “Borinquen” (the word given to Puerto Rico by its original inhabitants, the Taino Indians) and “Buccaneers.” The majority of the 65th Infantry Regiment were soldiers from Puerto Rico. The others were Puerto Ricans who lived in the United States.
On April 13, 2016, then House Speaker Paul Ryan presented the Congressional Gold Medal to Col. Manuel Siverio and Sgt. Maj. Jose Colon, both members of the Borinqueneers, during a ceremony in which he said this about the Regiment:
“Throughout their service, they suffered persistent discrimination. For too long, their contribution to our history has been overlooked, so today, today we are setting the record straight by giving them the highest award within our possession, the Congressional Gold Medal.”
In 2020, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which included legislation supporting April 13 as National Borinqueneers Day. On Jan. 1, 2021, members of Congress voted for the legislation and the United States now celebrates National Borinqueneers Day.
Congress designating April 13 as National Borinqueneers Day shows that these unsung heroes are finally being recognized.
National Borinqueneers Day honors the bravery and sacrifice of the 65th Infantry Regiment. While these soldiers fought in World War I and World War II, they are best known for their contributions and bravery during the Korean War.
This is fitting both because the 65th Infantry Regiment earned the name “Borinqueneers” in 1950 during the Korean War – and because their unit motto is “Honor et Fidelitas,” Latin for “Honor and Fidelity.”
During the Korean War, the Borinqueneers were awarded 10 Distinguished Service Crosses, 256 Silver Stars, 606 Bronze Stars, and 2,771 Purple Hearts.
Out of the 10 Distinguished Service Crosses, five were awarded to Puerto Ricans: Sgt. First Class Modesto Cartagena, Private Badel Hernandez Guzman, Master Sgt. Juan Negron, Cpl. Fabian Nieves Laguer, and Master Sgt. Balisario Noriega. Negron was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor. The 65th Infantry Regiment was also awarded the American Presidential and Meritorious Unit Commendations, two Korean Presidential Unit Citations, and the Greek Gold Medal of Bravery.
National Borinqueneers Day is a time when our nation pays tribute to the 65th Infantry Regiment for their service and loyalty – and shows our appreciation to the families of these brave men.
Take the time on April 13 to remember these men who fought for our nation.