BERLIN — The all-Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment — the Borinqueneers — played a key role in defending the front line during the Korean War. And while some of those who put their lives on the line have been recognized with military honors, a national push is being made to honor the regiment with one of the country’s highest distinctions — the Congressional Gold Medal.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 11:13 AM EDT
“We want to see them get this recognition while they’re still alive,” Carmelo Figueroa, chairman of Elected Legislative Affairs for the Hispanic-American Veterans of CT, Inc. said before he, three Korean War Borinqueneers and two Vietnam vets took to the airwaves Wednesday. “Time is running out.”
In an effort to promote the case to recognize the 65th Regiment that served in Korea, Figueroa — who joined the Army in 1982 and later had tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan — took part in a WPRX 1120 AM radio talk show, "Hablando en Serio," hosted by Felix Viera. He was joined by Dolores Nieves, Celestino Cordova and Joe Picard, all members of the regiment in Korea.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman also participated in the discussion on “Hablando en Serio,” which translates into English as “Talking Seriously.” Wyman, on air, vowed to support the effort to award the group a Congressional Gold Medal. She said her office would draw up and sign a proclamation in honor of the Borinqueneers this week.
“I will be on board with it,” Wyman said.
For Picard, Cordova and Nieves, the support is greatly appreciated.
“We need all the support we can get,” Picard added.
The Borinqueneers were among the first infantrymen to enter into combat with the enemy during the Korean War. The regiment also staged a major defense which allowed U.S. troops to withdraw from the Chosin Reservoir, fighting under what has been described by the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Alliance as some of the most dangerous conditions.
The 65th Infantry Regiment was one of the last to leave Korea and is responsible for the last battalion-sized bayonet assault in U.S. Army history.
In all, members of the 65th were awarded 2,771 Purple Hearts, 606 Bronze Stars, 256 Silver Stars and 10 Distinguished Service Crosses for their heroics.
“I’m so proud to be here with our heroes,” Wyman said. “These are the people who are allowing our country to be free, so it’s a joy to be here with them.”
Figueroa said he is looking for the state’s political leaders, its veterans and all those in Connecticut to be leaders in garnering these men the recognition they deserve.
“It’s important that we educate the public of Connecticut on these issues,” he added.