Diane Alverio Publisher In the fall of 2012, shortly after we launched CTLatinoNews.com, we learned of a story that, unfortunately, none of us had heard before. It is the story of the soldiers of the segregated 65th military regiment based in Puerto Rico. Although, according to historians, they fought valiantly in four wars, they were subjected to discrimination and other abuses by the military itself, merely because they were from Puerto Rico.
It took a young Bridgeport, CT Latino, Frank Medina, to take the lead and work tirelessly to make sure this unit’s role in history became known and their story told. It is a story of American heroes who, instead of cowering because of the abuse, bravely nicknamed themselves the ‘Borinqueneers’ – which derives from the island’s original Taino name, Borinquen – to demonstrate their pride in their heritage.
Medina, a West Point graduate who now lives in Orlando, dedicated many years to develop a grassroots movement, the Congressional Gold Medal Alliance (http://www.borinqueneers.org) , to ensure the unit, which was the military’s last segregated unit, received the Congressional Gold Medal.
Last year, Congress passed the bill and it was signed by President Obama. This past week, Senator Richard Blumenthal, who was an ardent supporter of the CGM bill, along with the Hispanic American Veterans of CT collaborated to present these 65th regiment veterans in Connecticut with a signed copy of the bill honoring them.
Also recognized at the East Hartford Event were Frank Croce, CTLatinoNews.com, Frank Medina, who traveled to CT for the ceremony, LTC Lesbia I. Nieves, and SFC (RET) Carmelo Figueroa.
Nieves, the highest ranking Latina in CT’s National Guard, and Figueroa were recognized for initiating the effort to support the Congressional Gold Medal Alliance in Connecticut.
Croce, a veteran from Waterbury, upon learning of the discrimination and what the ‘Borinqueneers ‘endured while fighting to protect the U.S., joined Medina and countless others in working toward recognition for the 65th.
When we at CTLatinoNews.com learned of the ‘Borinqueneers” in the fall of 2012, we immediately made a commitment to help tell their story, reporting on them and sharing our reports with our local, regional and national media partners. This recognition from Frank Medina, the CGM Alliance and the CT Hispanic Veterans will always be very special to us, as telling the stories of Latinos in the region is why we exist.
We sent our photographer to the ceremony to capture the happy occasion, which included the aging, but still proud, ‘Borinqueneers”, their families and the award winners. We are happy to share this photo gallery, as we pledge continue to tell the story of the ‘Borinqueneers’.
Photos: Tim Becker