Hispanic Heritage Month reflects on 65th IR's service
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate and commemorate the contributions that Hispanics have made to American culture, history and the armed forces.
From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 Osan celebrated this year's Hispanic Heritage Month, and reflected on this year's theme, "Hispanics: serving and leading our nation with pride and honor."
The observance was established by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, who chose the date because five Latin American countries celebrate their independence on Sep. 15, and three other countries celebrate their independence on Sept. 16. At first, Hispanic Heritage Month was only observed for a week, but it was expanded to a 30-day period in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan.
In President Barack Obama's Sep. 13 proclamation of Hispanic Heritage Month, he also emphasized the important impact Hispanics have on American culture.
"From the earliest days of our republic, Hispanic Americans have written crucial chapters in our national story," Obama said. "Hispanics have honorably defended our country in war and built prosperity during times of peace. They run successful businesses, teach our next generation of leaders, and pioneer scientific and technological breakthroughs. This month, America acknowledges these vital contributions and celebrates our Hispanic heritage."
Proof of how Hispanics have contributed to U.S. history can even be found here in the Republic of Korea.
One of the most historical and unsung minority units is the 65th Infantry Regiment, which served honorably during the Korean War. The 65th IR was known as the Borinqueneers, and was made up of mostly Puerto Rican soldiers and the only all-Hispanic unit in Army history.
Deployed in support of the Korean War just two months after it started, the 65th IR was one of the first units to face the North Korean army and helped drive them back past the 38th parallel. When the Chinese army stepped in to aid the North Korean army, the Borinqueneers faced the Chinese People's Liberation army on a daily basis.
The 65th IR was also part of the task force which held the perimeter of the port city of Hungnam to ensure the safe retreat of the 1st Marine Division. The Borinqueneers are credited with executing the last U.S. battalion-sized bayonet assault on Chinese forces while taking a vital hill.
During their distinguished service, members of the 65th IR earned 10 Distinguished Service Crosses, 256 Silver Stars, 606 Bronze Stars, and 2,771 Purple Hearts. The unit is also on its way to receiving the coveted Congressional Gold Medal.
"Hispanic men and women have shown their love for the United States by answering the call to service, and we owe them and their families a tremendous debt of gratitude," said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Edwin Reyes, 3rd Battlefield Coordination Detachment airspace management chief. "Their patriotism and valor have added to the character of this great nation."