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Puerto Rican War Heroes to Receive 'Long Overdue' Congressional Medal

By Darryl Holliday | June 13, 2014 7:03am
 Gov. Quinn proclaimed Saturday "Borinqueneers Day" to honor veterans of the legendary 65th Infantry Regiment.
Gov. Quinn proclaimed Saturday "Borinqueneers Day" to honor veterans of the legendary 65th Infantry Regiment.
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US Army Center of Military History

HUMBOLDT PARK — A group of legendary Puerto Rican war heroes and veterans will receive a "a long overdue" Congressional Gold Medal, according to Gov. Pat Quinn.

Quinn proclaimed Saturday "Borinqueneers Day" in Illinois to honor the veterans of the legendary 65th Infantry Regiment, the all-Puerto Rican unit that distinguished itself in every United States war from 1898 to 2008, according to the governor's office.

Quinn will formally issue the proclamation this weekend near a Humboldt Park school named in honor of a Borinqueneer, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, 2739 W. Division St.

“Few soldiers distinguished themselves on the battlefield as much as the Borinqueneers. The recent action by Congress to award them the Congressional Gold Medal [in May] is a long-overdue recognition of the Borinqueneers’ contribution to our freedoms," Quinn said, citing a combination of the word buccaneers and the indigenous Taino name for the island of Puerto Rico, Borinquen.

In addition to being Puerto Rican Day, Saturday marks the 61st anniversary of the Korean War’s “Battle of Hill 412.” Some 61,000 Puerto Ricans served in Korea, and at least 750 died at such decisive battles as the Chosin Reservoir, Outpost Kelly and the Battle of Jackson Heights.

The Borinqueneers have a rich military history, according to press release announcing the national honor. Before formally organized as the 65th Infantry, Puerto Ricans fought the British in the American Revolution during General Bernardo de Galvez’s Gulf campaign.

The first shots fired by U.S. forces at a German ship in World War I came from Lt. Teofilo Marxuach, based in the “El Morro” fort in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In both World Wars, the unit was sent to Panama to protect the Canal.

In World War II, they also fought in North Africa, Corsica, France and Germany. More recently, Borinqueneers served in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa.

Other military units to earn the Congressional Gold Medal include the Tuskegee Airmen, Navajo Code Talkers, Japanese-American Nisei soldiers and Women’s Air Service Pilots (WASPs).

Illinois has been home to people of Puerto Rican descent since the 1930s, according to Quinn's office. Today, there are nearly 200,000 Illinois Puerto Ricans.

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