On Wednesday afternoon, the 65th Infantry Regiment– made up of Puerto Rican soldiers that served during World War I, World War II, and the Korean War – will become the last segregated group to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. The infantry, known as the Borinqueneers, were volunteers. According to the New York Daily News, most of the 43,000+ Puerto Ricans served in the Korean War with the infantry – though they haven’t always received the recognition they deserve.
“While the Marines retreated from the Yalu River, we stayed behind guarding their rear,” said Norberto Cartagena about December 24, 1950. “Even on the ship that was to take us out of there, we had to keep on firing. The Chinese and the North Koreans were already on the pier.” And yet, the group didn’t receive a Medal of Honor for their contributions, though the soldiers they defended did.
In 2012, Former Army Capt. Frank Medina started the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Alliance as a way to honor his grandfather, Efraín Medina, and other members for their bravery. The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the highest honors, which has gone to the Navajo Coe Talkers (July 26, 2001), the African-American Tuskegee Airmen (March 29, 2007), the Japanese-American Nisei (May 26, 2012), and the African-American Montford Point Marines (June 28, 2012).
According to Fox News Latino, fewer than 70 veterans are still alive. And, Sen. Marco Rubio became one of their biggest allies. In 2014, President Barack Obama signed a bill to award the group the medal. But Rubio wrote Obama a letter criticizing him for not recognizing the group quicker.
“Given the age of these veterans, time is truly of the essence,” he wrote last year. “Sadly, several Borinqueneers have passed away since the bill’s signing, without ever having received the honor they earned during their lifetime. It is imperative that we act with urgency and do everything in our power to ensure that the remaining Borinqueneers receive their Congressional Gold Medals as soon as possible.”
Time hasn’t stopped the Borinqueneers from feeling excited. In Chicago, for example, a group of Korean War veterans are traveling to Washington D.C. to receive the medal. “I feel very good about [it],” said Raul Caronda, according to ABC7. “At least we’re being recognized after all these years. America is the greatest country in the world.”
According to Congressional Gold Medal Alliance, the event will stream live starting at 3 p.m. ET on April 13.
Update, April 13 at 12:25 p.m.: This post was updated to add the Speaker of the House’s live stream video.