06 Wednesday Nov 2013
Honor e Fidelitas/ Tribute to the 65th Regiment/ Borinqueneers
Philadelphia – Before an audience of Puerto Rican Veterans and more than one hundred dignitaries at the Korean War Memorial, Friday, Maj. General Wesley Craig of the Pennsylvania National Guard extolled the remarkable combat record of the 65th Infantry Regiment, recalling that the soldiers popularly known as “Borinqueneers,” “made the last bayonet-charge in United States military history.”
Reciting the motto of the 65th Infantry Regiment, ‘Honor and Fidelitas,” Maria Montero, Director of the Governor’s Advisory Council of Latino Affairs, opened the hour-long ceremonies that paid tribute to Puerto Rican Soldiers who, despite facing discriminatory treatment, “exemplified the commitment to exceptionalism.”
George Perez, a Marine Veteran who served in Vietnam and is a Special Assistant to Congressman Robert Brady; along with Juvencio Gonzalez, another Vietnam era Marine, were recognized for their pursuit of a Congressional Gold Medal for a group of soldiers who were only now receiving what was described as “long overdue honors.”
“We didn’t know it was going to be this big,” said Mr. Perez, referring to the sizeable turnout out of public officials for the event, a group that included Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ron Castille, City Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, former Secretary -Commonwealth Pedro Cortes, Regulatory External Affairs Liaison for PGW Diane Martino, Director of Governor’s Office Joshua Novotney, Councilman David Oh, Rep. Angel Cruz, Rep. John Taylor, Rep. Mark Cohen, Senator Tina Tartaglione and State Senator Mike Stack.
“We’re after that Congressional Gold Medal,” asserted Mr. Perez. “I’m glad that I started this with Juvencio Gonzalez and with our Latin American Legion Post 840.” Mr. Perez then read a certificate paying homage to the “Borinqueneers’ sponsored by U.S. Rep. Brady, which lauded their “dedication and sacrifice” which promoted the nation’s “peace and stability.”
The ceremony also gave certificates to the surviving relatives of members of the Borinqueneers, including Oscar Rosario Fuentes and Jose Delgado.
Besides “continuing this fight” to obtain a Congressional Gold Medal, Mr. Perez referred to 93 missing Puerto Rican soldiers that they want to recover from Korea. The North Korean government is currently denying access to United States officials.
Major General Wesley Craig cited the “distinguished combat record” of the 65th Infantry Regiment in the Korean War, a record of nine different campaigns; earning ten Distinguished Service Crosses, 256 Silver Stars, 606 Bronze Stars for Valor, and over 2,700 Purple hearts. “An astonishing record for such a relatively small unit,” added Maj. Gen. Craig.
“I probably would not have been here except for the bravery of my Platoon Sergeant Angel Mendez,” said Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald Castille, recalling the heroic action of the New York city orphan of Puerto Rican descent who saved his life.
While commanding a company of soldiers in Vietnam, Justice Castille was severely wounded, and it was only through Sgt Mendez’s bold rescue from the battlefield that enabled the Chief Justice to go on to serve on the state’s highest court. “He saved my life and he died that day.”
A letter from Sen. Patrick Toomey (Pa.-R) addressed to Mr. Emerito Bermudez, a surviving member of the Borinqueneers who served in Korea, was read by Mr. Juvencio Gonzalez, assuring him that the “goal” of a Congressional Gold medal is at the “forefront of my mind and heart.” Sen. Bob Casey (Pa.-D) is also a co-sponsor of the gold medal legislation.