tv Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for the 65th Infantry Regiment CSPAN May 8, 2016 8:51am-10:00am EDT
>> ladies and gentlemen, the speaker of the united states house of representatives, the honorable paul ryan. [applause] mr. ryan: good afternoon, everybody. it's great to see you here. i want to welcome all of you to the u.s. capitol. we are here today to honor the 65th infantry regiment of the u.s. army. cheers and applause] mr. ryan: or as we prefer to say the borinqueneers. isn't that cool? man. puerto rico became a part of the united states in 1898, and soon after congress created a special unit of puerto rican soldiers. they went on to fight for our country valiantly in both world wars and in korea. but throughout their service,
they suffered persistent discrimination. for too long their contribution to our history has been overlooked. so today, today we are setting the record straight by giving them the highest award within our possession -- the congressional gold medal. cheers and applause] mr. ryan: i know a lot of people worked very hard to make this happen. and i just want to recognize just a few of them, the people who made this happen. first of all, commissioner pierluisi. [applause] mr. ryan: congressman bill posey. [applause] mr. ryan: senator blumenthal.
[applause] mr. ryan: senator rubio. i also want to thank governor padilla. we'd like to thank secretary murphy and secretary mcdonald for joining us as well. [applause] mr. ryan: i would like to point out today that we have here with us some borinqueneers themselves. jose colon is here with us today. [applause] mr. ryan: manuel siverio is with us today. r. ryan: and john polasie. where's john? i would like to add that john now lives in milwaukee,
wisconsin. go, packers. i won't hold things up any longer. only to say that our honorees that we are forever in your debt and this medal is long, long overdue. thank you very much. enjoy the program. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, please stand for the presentation of the colors by the united states army color guard, the performance of our national anthem, and the retiring of the colors. ♪
> present, arms. >> ♪ o say can you see by the dawn's early light what so proudly we hailed t the twilight's last gleaming whose broad stripes and bright stars throughle perilous fight o'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming and the rocket's red glare the bomb's -- the bombs bursting
announcer: ladies and gentlemen, please remain standing as the chaplain of the united states senate, dr. barry black, gives the invocation. haplain black: [inaudible] to our prayer. thank you for the honor and fidelity of the u.s. army's 65th infantry regimen, composed mainly of puerto rican soldiers, that served with heroism and
world tion during both wars and the korean conflict. lord, we praise you for this opportunity to acknowledge their courageous contributions to america's freedom with the congressional gold medal. lord, forgive us for segregating our puerto rican and latino soldiers and for being slow to acknowledge their contributions. may this it congressional gold intrepid mony for borinqueneers, remind us that all humanity is wrapped in a blanket of mutuality and tied to
a single garment of destiny. padre, nuestro-- send, send heaven's richest blessings upon this ceremony as you he's been the day -- as you hasten the day when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness, like a mighty stream. we pray in your sovereign name, amen. >> please be seated. ladies and gentlemen resident commissioner from puerto rico, the honorable pedro pierluisi. [applause]
>> the u.s. territory of puerto rico faces enormous challenges. it has been difficult for my constituents and i to see the island we love suffer. and it is easy to lose spirit as the good name of your home is tarnished. too often associated with the negative rather than the positive. that is why even though the korean war ended 60 years ago, today's ceremony could not be more timely. the american soldiers from puerto rico, who formed the core of the 65th infantry regiment, remind the public of the extraordinary contributions that puerto rico has made to this country since 1898. in times of both war and peace. the borinqueneers remind me of
the 3.5 million u.s. citizens i represent. why we are so proud to be puerto rican at a time when our sense of pride has been shaken, but never ever shattered. we should draw strength and inspiration from their legacy and emulate their example. after all, this band of brothers overcame adversity of the most extreme sort, fighting the enemy on the front lines will also fighting discrimination back in the barracks. these warriors might have spoken english with an accent, but their service and sacrifice were universally understood. the men of the 65th infantry regiment, many of whom are here today, but many more of whom did not live to enjoy this glorious moment, represent the human spirit at its best.
brave, tough, devoted to their duty and to each other. puerto rico as always had this nation's back in times of crisis. it takes a special kind of patriotism to fight for a country that you love, but one that is night treat you equally. -- one that does not treat you equally. to the borinqueneers, those that are leaving and those that have left us, i want to simply say -- thank you. [speaking spanish] god bless the borinqueneers and the united states of america. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, united states representative from the
eight district of florida, the honorable bill posey. [applause] rep. posey: good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, and especially the heroes of the 65th infantry regiment. this is truly a momentous day, one which will honor to the gallantry of this decorated unit and the valor of each of its soldiers. during the darkest days of the korean war, the 65th infantry fought some of the fiercest battles under some of the harshest conditions. and they did so as the military's last segregated unit. a true testimony to their character. it was the now famous battle of chosen reservoir, one of the greatest withdrawals in american history, that the 65th infantry regiment fearlessly provided
cover for the first marine division. their actions earned high praise from general douglas macarthur, who said "they are writing a brilliant record of journalism in battle -- heroism in battle, and i am proud to have them under my command. i wish we could count many more like them." for its extremely service in the war, the regimental earned a medal of honor, 9 distinguished service causes, approximately 250 silver stars, over 600 bronze stars, and more than 2700 purple heart. today, the borinqueneers join the ranks of the most intrepid american warriors who have received the congressional gold medal. i would like to recognize the efforts of hundreds of people in the borinqueneers community who
dedicated -- whose dedication resulted in this or the distinction. i would like to acknowledge a group of exceptional students from st. luke's school in florida. the students took it upon themselves to embrace the legacy of the borinqueneers and page of you to their achievements of the 65th -- pay tribute to the achievements of the 65th regiment. thank you for your fierce courage and exceptional service to our country. may god continue to bless you and united states of america. thank you. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, u.s. senator from connecticut, the honorable richard blumenthal. [applause] rep. blumenthal: muchas gracias. [speaking spanish]
i can't speak more, because i'm going to be followed by marco rubio, who will correct me when i get it wrong. [laughter] i want to thank senator rubio for his partnership in this effort, as well as my colleagues senator mcconnell and senator reid, who were so inched mental in making possible -- were so instrumental in making possible this day. there are very few magic moments in this place. but this time is one of them. it was made possible by truly, a bipartisan effort. we ought to see more like it in the u.s. congress. [applause] i want to thank the borinqueneers who are here today, particularly my friends from connecticut. thank you for being here. [applause]
they inspired me in connecticut, and then when i visited the borinqueneers in puerto rico, to see their history displayed in photographs and to hear from them the stories of their bravery and others of men who did not come back. they are american warriors. they are american fighters and patriots in the best and papers -- best and bravest sense of the word. [applause] we honor them today in a proud tradition. the tradition of the tuskegee airmen, the navajo code talkers, men who braved and overcame and defined the insult of
discrimination and even segregation. who showed us how to be better americans. [applause] the men and women of puerto rico are americans. and their contribution to america's defense, and most importantly the ideals of the american dream, the ideals of freedom and opportunity and equal rights under the law -- are remarkable. not just in war, but in peace. the borinqueneers came back from war and continued to serve and sacrifice for our great nation. we are the greatest nation in history of the world. but we are imperfect. and the borinqueneers remind us that their journey, and hours
will never and as long as we tolerate discrimination and segregation in this country. i want to thank them for giving us this opportunity to recognize and celebrate their patriotism, courage, strength, and resolve that will make our nation better, and continue to make us the greatest nation in the history of the world. god bless you and god bless our great country. [applause] >> the honorable marco rubio. [applause]
>> i was impressed with senator blumenthal spanish, he basically said that he saved a bunch of money on his car insurance. [applause] [laughter] very good spanish. i want to thank him for the opportunity to work on this important issue. this moment has been years in the making, and many years overdue. from the outset, as a member of the u.s. congress, i wish we could argue with this metal sooner. it is my hope that the borinqueneers and those that are departed and missing in action will know at last that their service has received the ultimate tribute from a grateful
nation. over the years, even in the shadow of unequal treatment, your regiment never faltered to prove just how valuable it is to the cause of freedom. my favorite example was operation, when the borinqueneers were attacked with playing the role of the enemy aggressors in a military exercise. they were able to halt the group of more than 32,000 american troops. our army commanders wisely deployed them into the heart of the korean war are seeing their capabilities. it has been one of my great honors as a senator to be involved in the effort to secure the congressional gold medal for the by having the opportunity to cosponsor the legislation passed in 2014. i also want to echo the sentiment about those students
at st. luke's school from florida. ms. ford and her students raised thousands of dollars in her community towards ongoing national effort to ensure that every living borinqueneer would receive a replica of the congressional gold medal. [applause] the passionate efforts of these who made the state of reality is part of what makes this metal special. it reminds us that the legacy of past and recent of borinqueneers a living legacy.
that legacy alive and well, reminds us that america is truly an exceptional country. ours is a nation made up of people. who came together as one nation because we share a common idea. that everyone deserves the freedom to exercise their god-given right. each member of the 65th infantry regiment fought for their freedom. not just for themselves, but for every man, woman, and child. in closing, i would like to congratulations on the unveiling of your congressional gold medal. more importantly, on the behalf of my staff, on the behalf of my children, and of the people of florida, thank you for your service, thank you for your courage, and for voting to make
>> the honorable nancy pelosi. [applause] rep. pelosi: good afternoon everyone. it is my honor to join our speaker and leaders in the senate in welcoming you to the capital on this special day. a privilege to have each and every one of you here along with the secretary of veterans affairs. i am pleased to join senator mcconnell and reid and his personal gold medal award ceremony. it is such a special day to join our colleague, who is part of the sponsorship of the legislation.
i think all the sponsors as well. advocate for the house of representatives, who is with us today. [applause] and of course a special honor to welcome governor padilla of puerto rico. [applause] just in case everyone had not been introduced. it is an honor to join all of you as we bestowed the congressional gold medal on the legendary pratfall, dignified, dignified, 65th infantry regiment. honor and fidelity. so rings the motto of this courageous regiment of americans. first formed as a regiment of puerto rican volunteers, it was redesignated as the 65th infantry regiment in 1920. with honor and fidelity, the
65th infantry became -- overcame prejudice and bigotry and wrote a new chapter of heroism in our shared american story. that is part of their legacy. in the panama canal zone, world war i, later on the doorstep of nazi germany, the defining crucible of the korean war, and beyond, borinqueneers protected freedom abroad and advanced the dignity of latino americans at home. and the korean war in particular, the borinqueneers astounded commanders with their spectacular village and courage. -- valor and courage. they enriched our nation with the strength of their service, through the excellence of their example and the power of their bravery. the borinqueneers' valor under
fire is no short of legendary. it is no accident that the u.s. army's first latino general in the u.s. army is a proud veteran of the 65th infantry. i believe he is with us here today. [applause] your service is one of the great american stories. it is also the fact that others from the latino american immunity, puerto ricans and others, followed in your footsteps and are a very important part of national security of our country.
i know that my colleagues would agree that wherever we travel in the world to visit our men and women in uniform, including hospitals around the world, we see and meet latino americans who are fighting, who have fought for our country. you should take some satisfaction in her leadership role. that is part of your legacy. [applause] as senator blumenthal mentioned, this regiment stands among some of the most honored names in american military history. units who overcame the worst discrimination for the right to defend our country. we add to the roles of her most courageous trouble using -- and
true blazing honoree, the native american code talkers, the 100 infantry battalion of the japanese american 442nd regimental combat team, the tuskegee airmen. imagine they were out fighting for freedom, you were out fighting for freedom, while being deprived of it in many cases at home. again, you are making america more american. [applause] it is our privilege to add the 65th regiment to the veterans of the 65th infantry regiment with us today, and your families, who shared your sacrifice and contribution to america, to all those around the country -- thank you. thank you for your service, your leadership, your courage.
thank you for your honor and your fidelity. thank you for defending freedom and enriching our great democracy. thank you for blessing america with your service. god bless you. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, the honorable harry reid. [applause] sen. reid: on may 19, i was given a unique honor. but it was 1996. i represented the u.s. senate with the dedication of the moment -- the monument of remembrance. i will never forget that day. i was a fairly new senator.
and the immense gratitude the people had for their veterans. the same emotions are with us today as we honor the 65th regiment. to ensure this honor, we have at a number of people say that. but in spite of the heroism and valor during the korean war, it's efforts were unrecognized for far too long by congress and by the american people. as one member of the regiment said, "we lost so many.' the american people don't know the sacrifices of so many puerto ricans that died in korea, the bloodiest war for puerto rico. sacrifices were just -- disproportionately large from puerto rico. 2300 were wounded. many of them grievously wounded.
121 are still missing in action. the 65th infantry regiment paid a terrible price for freedom, our freedom. they also left an incredible service to tens of thousands of puerto ricans by enlisting in the armed services. it was an exemplary service. today, puerto ricans are still fighting and sacrificing for our country. throughout the war on terror and to combine veterans operations in iraq and afghanistan, 70 puerto ricans have been killed. 378 have been wounded, all in combat. the brave men and women of puerto rico netzer today are -- who serve today are following in the footsteps of the 65th infantry. they will also be recovered for their heroic efforts, and
remembered by the fathers and mothers and grandmothers and grandmothers and all puerto ricans will remember the sacrifices of the korean conflict. and we should do the same. i will, and i hope we all do it. malia summation never forget the 65th-- -- may we as a nation never forget the 65th proud infantry regiment. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, the majority leader of the u.s. senate, mitch mcconnell. [applause] sen. mcconnell: christmas eve is a special time for many of us. it is an evening filled with love and anticipation, confections and devotion. that is true whether you are in louisville or las vegas, anchorage or austin, seattle or
san juan. if you happen to be in san juan one particular christmas eve in 1950, you might have seen families celebrating over elaborate dinners. you might have detected the smells of roast pork and the faint melodies of familiar songs. and maybe you might have detected an echo from half a world away, the sound of soldiers singing in spanish the very same song. it could have been a song of gratitude for hot showers and warm meals or a song of remembrance for comrades lost or a song of celebration for one of the greatest withdrawals in modern military history. what we do know is this. the men singing that christmas
eve off the coast of north korea were proud members of the 65th infantry regiment, the borinqueneers. these soldiers faced a daunting mission. helped korea refugees and fellow american soldiers escape encirclement from over 100,000 communist chinese troops. troops that not only outnumbered the americans, but carried orders to annihilate them. outgunned and outmanned though the 65th may have been, these soldiers courageously marched forward through subzero temperatures, through mountainous terrain, and right into heavy gunfire. near the beaches, the 65th infantry regiment swung into action, providing rearguard assistance to the first marine division. what these soldiers achieved at
the reservoir hope thousands maneuver to safety. the men of the 65th lost many comrades. but they stayed behind until the job was done. they were among the last to evacuate on christmas eve. it's no wonder general douglas macarthur praised them as a resolute will to victory. these soldiers he said were writing a brilliant record of achievement. it's a record that began in the sometimes hellish theaters of world war i and world war ii. it continues across fierce battles in the korean war. what these men achieved is all the more remarkable when you consider the other obstacles they often had to confront at the very same time. so we're proud today to have some of these brave men and their families here with us. we also honor the soldiers who
can't be here. we remember the wounded, the missing and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. the soldiers of the 65th infantry regiment distinguished themselves with a number of high honors in the korean war. as others have said, nearly a dozen distinguished service crosses, some 250 silver stars, more than 600 bronze stars and over 2,700 purple hearts. we add to that today with the highest civilian honor congress can bestow. the congressional gold medal is an honor that has been granted to our country's most distinguished military units from the raiders and the navajo code talkers to the fighter aces and the tuskegee airmen. we now present it to a group of soldiers who distinguished themselves with bravery and a determination to never stop writing that brilliant,
brilliant record. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, the speaker of the united states house of representatives, the honorable paul d. ryan. [applause] speaker ryan: when you start learning about the borinqueneers and their history, the question that keeps coming to mind is, would you fight for a country that discriminated against you? would you fight in an army that puts you in a segregated unit? and would you fight without any guarantee that one day, way down the line, your country would finally recognize your service? because these men, they did that. it takes a certain caliber of
man to do that. i recently heard a story that makes this point beautifully. it's about one of the men i mentioned earlier. john was a doctor serving in korea. one day a korean couple came to his aid station with a very, very sick baby. he had a severe case of pneumonia. there was a new wonder drug called penicillin. john knew it would save the boy. there were strict rules about its use. you were supposed to give it to american soldiers and american soldiers only. john later said, i just could not simply let that baby die. and so he gave their son an injection. six weeks later, the couple came to visit john at his aid station. now very, very far away from where he had originally met them. and thanked him for curing their son.
in exchange they offered him a bag of chestnuts and he gladly accepted. i tell you this story, a simple story, because i think it illustrates what we admire in the borinqueneers. they showed us that time again, courage does not know color. decency does not pick sides. these men did not fight to preserve the status quo. they fought to make their country better. and they succeeded. their decency was so plain, their courage very obvious, that now the whole country has honored them for their valor. the story of the 65th infantry regiment is full of heroism and sacrifice. and with this medal, the borinqueneers, we are weaving that story into this fabric of american history. and now that history is so the
members of congress to represent the regiment. for which i was part. on behalf of the men who were members of the regiment, it is a distinct privilege for me to receive this highly prestigious award, the congressional gold medal. it is well-deserved tribute to the brave men that fought many hard battles in korea. those who survived as well as those who lost their lives in combat, their devotion to duty and many acts of valor against the enemy demonstrated the
skills and their loyalty to the united states. general william harris, the former commander of the 55th infantry regiment, in combat in the early part of the korean war, expressed it best when he said, and i quote, no group has greater pride in itself and its heritage than the puerto rican people. [applause] nor have i encountered any that were more dedicated in support of the democratic principles for which the united states stands.
[applause] i accept this medal in the name of the regiment, the families of those who lost their loved ones, the families of over 100 missing in action, and whose remains have not been recovered. thank you again for remembering the 65th infantry regiment, for our effort and extreme sacrifice in many cases, in battles against the enemy. god bless you. [applause]
next time, we're going to get congresswoman vasquez from new york, she was singing the whole time. were they not awesome? they were terrific. [applause] sec. murphy: first off the bat, speaker ryan, thank you for hosting us and to all the national political leaders, thank you for your leadership to make this a reality. and of course, the other speakers i want to echo the remarks that there are some great military leaders here in our presence. we have the adjutant general of puerto rico, we thank you for your leadership. [applause] it's a historic year for the army. we have three women graduates from ranger school. there's a great general officer
right there one of the mentors to this next generation. so thank you so much, ma'am. [applause] we also have the vice chief of staff, general dan allen that is here. [applause] and general tim cavity, who is head of our reserves. so thank you so much, general. [applause] now, we are here to recognize this unit for their time in korea, they have led in so many efforts for our nations. with two members of congress that are also korean war veterans. congressmen sam johnson and we also have congressman charlie rangel. charlie, thank you so much for your leadership. [applause] and let me just say something about this group.
their service in uniform was extraordinary over generations. as an iraq war veteran of this generation and now in this role, it's the korean war generation and the vietnam generation that made sure when my generation came home, we were welcomed with open arms, and we owe you a debt of gratitude for welcoming us home and making us feel like brothers. thank you so very much, every single one of you. [applause] as speaker ryan said, it could have been easy to look down. it could have been easy to turn your back. it could have been easy to put that uniform away and not serve anymore. but every single one of you showed what it means to be an american soldier. to be a soldier for life. that when you wore the cloth of our country, the love of our
nation is stamped in your heart forever. and you continue to serve. you continue to be civic assets to our community, all over the world. when speaker ryan told that story about the colonel over there with the penicillin, our soldiers, we're quiet professionals. let me tell you something, you saved that boy's life. wherever an american soldier goes in this world, we make a positive difference. in your generation, in my generation, and it's hard to see it in real time. but you ask the people of afghanistan. there's millions of girls that are going to school now that never went to school before in afghanistan. that's because of the american soldier and our troops. [applause] now, colonel, your eloquent speech, we appreciate it.
i will tell you, you look like an american paratrooper. i see his combat infantry badge on his shoulder. let me tell you, he does look good. i think he's a married man, but he does look very good. [laughter] [applause] but the heart of an american soldier is what we're celebrating today, and it's an honor, as your secretary of the army, to be here, to celebrate with each and every one of you. god bless you and god bless america. thank you. [applause]
>> ladies and gentlemen, the honorable robert mcdonald. [applause] sec. mcdonald: good afternoon. good afternoon. i'm pleased to be able to add my congratulations to everyone who has had a hand in make thing day happen, especially to those veterans who have earned this award through their pioneering service. my mission, and the mission of my apartment is the care for -- and the mission of my department is to care for those who have born the battle, in president lincoln's words, and for the families and their survivors. it's the best and most inspiring mission in government, serving the best and most deserving clients in the world. the proof is right here among us. this, the veterans of the 65th infantry regiment, this honor is long overdue.
but i want you know the veterans of puerto rico have never been forgotten by the american people. the v.a. has been caring for them for longer than it's been a department, providing them the same care and benefits available to other veterans. over 60,000 veterans are interred at the puerto rico cemetery where the wartime services of each one of them are etched in stone for all to see. among them is master sergeant juan martinez, a native of puerto rico. he enlisted in the army in 1948 and in april of 1951 was serving in korea with company l, 65th infantry regiment, 3rd infantry division. when his company was forced to withdraw by enemy attack, he stayed behind and single
handedly stopped the enemy from seizing the roadblock his company was defending. he held his position. and he held it through the entire night buying time for his company to regroup, and successfully counterattack. and for his bravery, he was recently awarded the nation's highest award for valor, the medal of honor. [applause] i'll be in san juan later this month, beneath the walls of the old spanish fort, where the 65th fired the first american shots of world war i.
while there, i'll visit the national cemetery to pay my respects on behalf of a nation to those who did not live to see this day. but who are finally now receiving the recognition they so richly deserve. they will always be remembered, that's president lincoln's promise. that's the v.a.'s promise. and that's my promise, as well. may god bless you all and god bless the united states of america. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, please stand as the chaplain of the united states house of representatives gives the benediction.
father conroy: let us pray. may the hands and hearts of this nation be raised in prayer and praise for this puerto rican unit, which served our nation and the hope of freedom for all of the world. through three wars the borinqueneers chose to serve while they were still not completely welcome to share in the fullness of the american social fabric. even so, the unit earned thousands of military honors for their service. may the breath of god uphold their noble and heroic story. may it carry to other generations and even to other nations a message to inspire citizens everywhere to serve
without counting the cost. may those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who etched out historic victories, and those who suffered personally, the pain of discrimination in those dark days of our world and our nation, be rewarded with success and find peace. bless all women and men in military service, no matter their racial, cultural or religious heritage and their families. god bless america and grant us peace, both in the present and with you forever, amen. all: amen. >> ladies and gentlemen, please remain at your seats for the departure of the official party.
>> you are watching american history tv. all they get every weekend on c-span3. each week until the 2015 election, road to the white house rewind major archival coverage of presidential races. coming up, a 1968 campaign film by george wallace. governor andabama senator. he tries to run for president under the banner of the newly created party. eventually, governor wallace succeeded in getting on the ballot. in all 50 states. he came in third in the general election.