KISSIMMEE, Fla. – This Hispanic Heritage Month, military veterans want people to remember a specific group that helped fight in the Korean War: the Borinqueneers.
The soldiers were the Puerto Rican regiment of the U.S. Army and belonged to the 65th Infantry Regiment.
"I remember vividly, the weather, the winters there that blows from Siberia was really our worst enemy," Germán Colón, a veteran of the unit, said. The 91-year-old said he was drafted into the Korean War because the Army needed of bilingual soldiers.
"This was a group that came directly from the island," Colón said about all of the men who were Puerto Rican. The 65th Infantry Regiment was the only Hispanic regiment of the U.S. Army.
"I was assigned to a platoon that had to do with detecting the enemy artillery fire," Colón said.
"We had to put mics outside, expose yourself to the enemy fire and set up mics and look on those computers, trying to get the coordinates, and then send it back to our artillery so they can shoot back and silence them," he said. "It was a lot of danger."
Colón said the sodliers had sleepless nights and fearful days but also a sense of pride.
"Representing such a tiny island-- Puerto Rico, part of the United States -- to us, we felt like we, we mean something."
He said that when the soldiers came back from the war, it didn't feel as if their sacrifice had meant something because there was no "welcome home" celebration.
"We should've been welcomed as we arrived to the states but nothing like that happened," Colón said.
The recognition for their heroic acts came several decades later. In 2016, Congress honored the 65th Infantry Regiment with the Congressional Gold Medal. Colón said the honor took too long.
"We should have gotten it earlier, much earlier. It should've been done spontaneously from the government," Colón said.
It came after veterans urged support from elected officials in 1999. Former Kissimmee Commissioner, Wanda Rentas was part of the initiative and she continues to advocate for the group with the Borinqueneers Congressional National Committee, a nonprofit organization focused on keeping their legacy alive.
"We're trying to reach out to the schools so that they can make sure that, during Hispanic Heritage month, that they're recognizing the Borinqueneers," Rentas said. "It is my duty today, not that somebody is obligating me, but I need to make them shine because they deserve it."