Hispanic Heritage Council of WNY Leads ceremony at Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park Hispanic Veteran Monument on National Borinqueneers Day
During a ceremony at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park on National Borinqueneers Day, the family of Pedro Rodriguez-DeJesus received military medals earned by the World War II veteran 80 years ago. Among the honors, requested by the family and the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York, and secured by Congressman Brian Higgins, was the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to members of the U.S. Army’s 65th Infantry Regiment.
Higgins said, “The Borinqueneers served under the motto of ‘Honor and Fidelity,’ and they upheld those principles defending America’s freedom abroad during a time when they were still unjustly experiencing discrimination at home. It is a privilege to recognize and remember Corp. Rodriguez-DeJesus as we celebrate the faithful service of the Borinqueneers.”
Paul Marzello, president and CEO for the park, said, “The Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park has a mission to honor, educate, inspire and preserve. To honor veterans, military, and military families; to educate about the value of service and sacrifice in defense of freedom; to inspire a sense of patriotism and a desire to serve one’s country in protecting the right to liberty and justice for all; and to preserve the military artifacts entrusted to our care. We are proud to host an annual National Borinqueneers Day Commemoration at the Naval Park to honor and remember those who served in the 65th Infantry Regiment.”
Casimiro Rodriguez, a member of the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Alliance national steering committee and past-president of the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York, said, “Here in Western New York, we’re honored as a community to be able to join many cities across our nation, and Puerto Rico, to pause and reflect on April 13 – National Borinqueneers Day – a time to recognize the valor, service and sacrifices provided by veterans of the 65th Infantry Regiment during various wars.”
Marissa DeJesus and the Rodriguez-DeJesus family added, “We would like to thank the wonderful staff at Congressman Higgins office and all those involved in the National Borinqueneers Day Commemoration for providing a meaningful and thoughtful ceremony in honor of our abuelo, Pedro Rodriguez-DeJesus. It was a truly beautiful celebration of the service and sacrifice of our beloved ancestor, and we are deeply thankful for this special day, which has brought our extended family together from all over the US. Thank from the bottom of our hearts! ¡Wepa!”
The 65th Infantry Regiment, created in 1917, was a segregated Puerto Rican unit of the U.S. Army. Also known as the Borinqueneers, the unit served during WWI, WWII and most of the Korean War, even after President Truman ordered the desegregation of the armed forces.
Pedro Rodriguez-DeJesus, born in Puerto Rico in 1917, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943 and was assigned to serve in the 65th Infantry Regiment. Following his honorable discharge in 1946, DeJesus, a master carpenter, moved to Western New York to provide greater opportunities for his young family. He worked hard, saving enough to purchase a home in South Buffalo for his family of 10.
Rodriguez-DeJesus passed away in 1994. On National Borinqueneers Day, his family was presented the military honors he earned while serving in the army, which include: the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII. In addition, for his service in the 65th Infantry Regiment, the family received a Congressional Gold Medal, which recognizes the service and sacrifices of the Borinqueneers.
April 13 is recognized as National Borinqueneers Day because it marks the anniversary of the ceremony held in 2016 presenting the very first Gold Medals to members of the 65th Infantry Regiment. Higgins and members of the Hispanic Heritage Council of WNY, who led the effort to pass legislation awarding the Borinqueneers a Congressional Gold Medal, attended the ceremony held in Washington, D.C., on that day.