Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony Honoring the 65th Infantry Regiment
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Leaders of the U.S. House and Senate held a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony today honoring the 65th Infantry Regiment, the Borinqueneers. The following are U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s remarks delivered during the ceremony, which took place in Emancipation Hall, in the U.S. Capitol:
“Christmas Eve is a special time for many of us. It’s an evening filled with love and anticipation, confections and devotion. That’s true whether you’re in Louisville or Las Vegas, Anchorage or Austin, Seattle or San Juan.
“If you happened 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 like Silent Night. And maybe, just maybe, you might have detected a recognizable 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 had just faced a daunting mission: help Korean refugees and fellow American soldiers escape encirclement from over a hundred thousand 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 then into heavy gunfire.
“Near the beaches of Hungnam, the 65th Infantry Regiment swung into action, providing rear-guard assistance to the 1st Marine Division. What these soldiers achieved at the Chosin Reservoir helped 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 this regiment for its ‘valor, determination and 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 both World War I and II. It continued across fierce battles in the Korean War. And what these men achieved is all the more remarkable when you consider the other obstacles they often had to confront at the same time.
“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: 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 Doolittle Raiders and Navajo Code Talkers to the Fighter Aces and 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 record of achievement.’”
Related Issues: Tributes, America's Military, History