A well deserved recognition for Borinqueneers in Philly
Government dignitaries, community leaders, Latin American Post 840 of the American Legion and Puerto Rican veterans gathered for the historical unveiling of the 65th Infantry “Borinqueneers” Avenue in Philadelphia.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Nov. 7 at the Erie & Whitaker Avenues intersection at noon. A project that had been in the works for some time, the recognition had been long awaited and was received with much appreciation.
The 65th Infantry regiment was a Puerto Rican regiment of the United States Army which participated in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. The Borinqueneers is a nickname for the regiment of the 3rd Division in the US Army, an all-volunteer Puerto Rican unit.
Among the Puerto Rican veterans in attendance was Victor Manuel Marrero, originally from Barranquitas, who finished his military service in 1967 and moved to Philadelphia the following year. “I joined the legion very recently, four years ago. I realized they had a genuine interest in helping veterans and today I am the vice-commander,” Marrero said. “And that is what we continue to work for. This is a very emotional event for me because I had a brother-in-law who was part of the 65th Infantry and was killed in Korea."
José Ángel Rivera joined the army when he was 21 years old and served as a Marine during the Vietnam War from 1964 to 1968. “It was a very great experience. I was born in Guamo, in Puerto Rico, and I am very proud to be a part of it, the level I reached, and my family is also very proud.”
Andre Mears, Deputy District Commander in the First District in Philadelphia of the American Legion, was drafted by the military from 1966 to 1967 during the Vietnam War. “I wasn’t the happiest person in the world but naturally after the fact I would go and do it again.”
Mears has been a member for the Latin American Post 840 for more than 20 years and said he is very proud to be part of the group. “I am glad to be a part of this historical day for our “Borinqueneers,” unfortunately so many of the minorities that were in the military didn’t got the recognition that they deserved at the time,” Mears said.
George Perez, current assistant to Congressman Bob Brady and former Marine, said he is very proud for the recognition. “This is the first time Philadelphia honors the 'Borinqueneers,' being also a veteran I'm very proud.”
Perez said that many of the bodies of soldiers from the 65th Infantry are still in Korea, and he is leading an effort to bring them back to their families.
“We are trying to bring 93 bodies who are still in Korea. For political reasons the country does want to return them,” Perez said. “Puerto Rico’s governor has done nothing, That will be our next fight to figure out how we can bring them back.”
More than 62,000 Puerto Ricans joined the military during World War II and more than 43,000 Puerto Ricans served in the Korean War. While in Korea, the Borinqueneers served in nine separate military campaigns, giving their lives to serve their country.
“This is to recognize the freedom that they secured for us. The Borinqueneers fought for the liberty we enjoy today, many died to give us that. This was my responsibility so it's an honor that we achieved our goal,” said State Representative Ángel Cruz, who spearheaded the project.
Cruz acknowledged that the responsibility to educate the newer generation on the “Borinqueneers” accomplishments continues. As the vice president of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, he intends to urge other legislators to honor the Puerto Rican regiment on a meeting scheduled for Dec. 7.