SAN JUAN – Some 50 Puerto Rican veterans of the U.S. Army’s 65th Infantry Regiment left for Washington on Tuesday to be decorated with the Congressional Gold Medal.
From the early hours Tuesday morning, the vets gathered at the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in San Juan to take an Airbus 320 to BWI Airport in Maryland, near Washington D.C.
Javier Morales, who despite never belonging to the unit that became known as the “Borinqueneers,” presides over the association of 65th Infantry retirees, told EFE that the group of veterans traveling to Washington reminds him of the time they sailed away on a ship to the Korean War.
“I’m a Vietnam vet, but I wanted to preside over this group to make sure the Borinqueneers (Borinquen is the original name of Puerto Rico) receive all the honors they deserve,” Morales said before leaving.
Created in 1899 as a segregated, all-Puerto Rican unit, the 65th Infantry saw combat in World War I, World War II and the Korean War.
“The pleasure of going there is enough. Many of these veterans never say a word at home and have never received any recognition. But now they are finally being given their due,” Morales said.
“We deserve that medal because we fought face to face as infantry,” Korean War veteran Pedro Jackson Morales told EFE.
By the same token, Angel Acevedo, who fought in World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam, told EFE he was “very grateful” because, in his opinion, the country had not “done right” by him and his fellow soldiers.
“We’re very moved because after a lot of suffering, they are honoring us for so much time spent shedding our blood in defense of democracy,” he said.
During the Korean War more than 60,000 volunteer reservists from Puerto Rico fought under the flag of the United States, and 6,000 of them were with the 65th Infantry.
It is estimated that one out of every four U.S. fatalities in that war was a Puerto Rican.