Featured: Korean War veteran Antonio “Tony” Muñiz of Falfurrias accepts the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of a grateful nation from Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, during ceremonies held on Monday, May 30, 2016 – Memorial Day – at the Brooks County Courthouse in Falfurrias.
Photograph By ALEX RÍOS
Antonio “Tony” Muñiz was with the 3rd Recon Company, which was attached to the 65th Infantry Regiment – known as The Borinqueneers – during the Korean War. The 65th Infantry Regiment is the first Hispanic Unit and the sole Unit from the Korean War to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. The regiment is also credited with the last battalion-sized bayonet assault in army history. “This award has been bestowed to a very few men, so I am very honored,” said Mr. Muñiz, who served as an Army combat medic. “But I must say the ones who should be honored the most are the ones who died for our freedoms, who made the ultimate sacrifice.” Mr. Muñiz has deep ties to Hidalgo County with three adult children and five grandchildren in Edinburg and McAllen.
Congressional Gold Medal, one of the nation’s highest civilian honors, bestowed upon Korean War veteran Antonio “Tony” Muñiz of Falfurrias “on behalf of a grateful nation” by Rep. Terry Canales
By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Korean War veteran Antonio “Tony” Muñiz of Falfurrias, a Hispanic native son and current resident of that community with deep ties to Edinburg, was bestowed one of the nation’s highest civilian honors during a Memorial Day ceremony held at the Brooks County Courthouse on Monday, May 30 – Memorial Day 2016.
With his family and area political leaders and friends in attendance, Mr. Muñiz received the Congressional Gold Medal from Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who also was joined at the public event by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Brooks County Judge Imelda Barrera, and former Kleberg County Judge and former Texas state representative Juan M. Escobar.
“As an Army Combat Medic, Mr. Muñiz, who is still known as ‘Doc’, saved many lives and brought back many men to their families that would have otherwise been left out in the battlefield and rice paddies of a horrific Korean War,” said Canales. “He received this tremendous honor on behalf of a grateful nation for serving on the front lines with the 65th Infantry Division, which is the first Hispanic Unit and the sole Unit from the Korean War to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.”
The Congressional Gold Medal is given to a Unit that has proven itself to go over and beyond as did the brave men of the 65th Infantry Division.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor that the United States Congress can bestow.
On April 13, 2016, 50 serving members from Puerto Rico joined only 200 surviving members from across the United States to receive such a medal in Washington D.C.
Mr. Muñiz is one of these few men who are still living and commanded to receive this medal.
As per Congress, they are being recognized for their pioneering military service, devotion to duty, and many acts of valor in the face of adversity.
Mr. Muñiz served as an Army Combat Medic with the 3rd Recon Company, which was attached to the 65th Infantry Regiment – known as The Borinqueneers – during the Korean War.
The 65th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed The Borinqueneers from the original Taíno name of the island (Borinquen), is a Puerto Rican regiment of the United States Army. The regiment’s motto is Honor et Fidelitas, Latin for Honor and Fidelity.
The regiment is also credited with the last battalion-sized bayonet assault in Army history.
Following the ceremony, Mr. Muñiz told reporters that he was overwhelmed with the receiving the Congressional Gold Medal, but emphasized that America’s true heroes are those who died in the line of duty to protect the United States.
“This award has been bestowed to a very few men, so I am very honored,” said Mr. Muñiz, who served as an Army combat medic. “But I must say the ones who should be honored the most are the ones who died for our freedoms, who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Hinojosa, who served as a U.S. Marine combat squad leader in Vietnam, praised Mr. Muñiz not only for his heroism, but also for reminding Americans to look out for their military veterans and their families.
“His service to our nation goes beyond the incredible danger he faced on the front lines of the Korean War, where we lost 35,000 military veterans and suffered another 100,000 wounded to protect democracy from the tyranny of communism,” said Hinojosa. “He has also made it a mission to help keep the Korean War from becoming a forgotten war, because we owe our freedoms today to what happened back then.”
According to http://www.britannica.com/event/Korean-War:
The Korean War was a conflict between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) in which at least 2.5 million persons lost their lives. The war reached international proportions in June 1950 when North Korea, supplied and advised by the Soviet Union, invaded the South. The United Nations, with the United States as the principal participant, joined the war on the side of the South Koreans, and the People’s Republic of China came to North Korea’s aid. After more than a million combat casualties had been suffered on both sides (see the table of casualties), the fighting ended in July 1953 with Korea still divided into two hostile states. Negotiations in 1954 produced no further agreement, and the front line has been accepted ever since as the de facto boundary between North and South Korea.
“South Korea is a model global citizen and a strong ally of the U.S. – and stands in sharp contrast to the communist regime in the North that has starved and murdered millions of its own people and caused untold mischief in the world community,” according to https://www.prageru.com/what-we-do. “Had it not been for U.S. intervention and support to the South, the current monstrous regime in Pyongyang would now rule all of Korea, ensure its nuclear-armed dictatorship even greater power and resources.”
LEGACY OF COURAGE AND HONOR
“Every U.S. veteran who serves our nation is deserving of our great respect and deep appreciation because they keep all of us safe throughout the world,” said Canales. “In the case of Mr. Antonio “Tony” Muñiz, we are honored to be able to join his loved ones on Memorial Day 2016 – Monday, May 30 – and be able to share in this momentous ceremony praising him, here at home in deep South Texas, for his heroism and patriotism.”
Canales added: “We are proud that one of those heroes, Mr. Antonio Muñiz, still lives to receive this medal himself.”
Canales is working with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to help finalize the bestowing of a Silver Star for Mr. Muñiz in recognition of his extraordinary courage under enemy fire while rescuing and treating wounded U.S. soldiers in the field of combat.
The Silver Star is the third-highest military combat decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Armed Forces. It is awarded for gallantry in action.
Mr. Muñiz also is a recipient of the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, and Good Conduct Medal from the United States, the Korean Service Medal and Bronze Star Attachment, the Combat Medal Badge 1st Award, and the United Nations Service Medal.
For now, the Congressional Gold Medal is latest honor in a remarkable legacy of courage and honor that Mr. Muñiz and his family chose share – and inspire – his fellow South Texans here at home.
TWO DAUGHTERS, ONE SON LIVE IN HIDALGO COUNTY
Mr. Muñiz’ connections to Edinburg and the Valley include two daughters – Mrs. Marla Cavazos, who serves as Principal of Anne L. Magee Elementary in Edinburg, and Mrs. Melinda Lopez, a registered radiology technician and college instructor in McAllen. Both women and their families have separate residences in Edinburg.
He also has a son, Mr. Carlos A. Muñiz, a retired math teacher, who resides in McAllen.
All of Mr. Antonio “Tony” Muñiz’ grandchildren are Edinburg school alumni or current students. They are: Kristina Candice Cavazos, Oscar Cavazos, III, and Alyssa Lopez, who graduated from Edinburg high schools with Honors, and Laura Jean Lopez and Jennifer Lopez, who attend Vela High School and are also in the Top Ten of their classes. Mr. Muñiz has always taught them to appreciate their freedom and their education.
Canales presented a Texas House of Representatives Resolution to Mr. Muñiz acknowledging the momentous day for the former Army PFC, and read a biography about Mr. Muñiz that had been prepared by Mrs. Cavazos.
That biography follows:
Mr. Muñiz was born and raised in Falfurrias, Texas. He was known then as PFC Antonio I. Muñiz, but was also a much valued Army Combat Medic. He went to Boot Camp in Ft. Hood and then continued to Ft. Sam Houston to be trained as a Combat Army Medic in 1951.
Upon his return to Ft. Hood, his military unit was ordered to go to Korea in late December 1951. He was in heavy combat in the Korean War in 1952.
Mr. Muñiz was in the 3rd Recon Company, which was attached to the 65th Infantry Regiment. They became one tough Unit. They would go on to change and be written forever in history. This 65th Recon Regiment that he was with would enter into enemy territory in the midst of the most heated war where ambush was imminent.
For many, it was a suicide mission.
His story and that of those who served with him have been published in various military magazines.
He was honorably discharged in 1953, but continued to serve in the Reserves for an additional 3 years, until his discharge in 1956. Mr. Muñiz’ patriotism continued even after his return to his beloved hometown of Falfurrias.
He proudly continued to assist fellow Veterans as the Brooks County Veterans’ Officer from 1990-2004. He only retired due to his glaucoma that hindered his sight.
Even today, many veterans seek his assistance from home.
“HEROES IN KOREA”
Mr. Muñiz’ dedication to helping ensure the incredible legacy of U.S. forces during the Korean War – including his first-hand accounts of the bravery and sacrifice of the 65th Infantry Regiment (The Borinqueneers) – have been published in various magazines.
In the November-December 2005 edition of The Graybeards, which is the official publication of The Korean War Veterans Association, Mr. Muñiz helped document the heroes which were the 65th Infantry Regiment – insights by Mr. Muñiz which were to be later proven true with the bestowment of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
In his article, titled “Heroes in Korea”, more than 55 years later, the Army medic and combat soldier was still coming to the aid and defense of the 65th Infantry Regiment (The Borinqueneers).
Mr. Muñiz account follows:
In the March-April (2005) issue of The Graybeards, Mr. Tag M. Jensen made interesting and important comments regarding the 65th Infantry Regiment in Korea. Jensen stated that he has been a member of the KWVA for a long time, and that he had not seen much written in The Graybeards about the 65th, a group that endured much undue negative publicity and treatment at the time.
He also stated that, although he was not Puerto Rican, he had served in the 3rd Infantry Division in Korea and knew firsthand how bravely the men had fought there.
I also served with the 3rd Infantry in Korea. I am not Puerto Rican, either, but I can also proudly attest to the fact that I served alongside the brave men of the 65th during the last six months of my time on the front lines.
“WELCOMING US TO HELL”
I arrived in Korea in early December of 1951 by ship. We landed at Inchon, where we were assigned to various divisions and detachments. I was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division and trucked into Seoul, where the 3rd I.D. headquarters was located. I remember it was snowing and very cold. They gathered us around a large tent and welcome us to Korea. I soon discovered they were welcoming us to hell.
We spent that first night in tents. At formation the following morning, they began calling out the names of those soldiers assigned to the 3rd Reconnaissance Company.
A friend of mine, who had been with me since training at Ft. Hood and Ft. Sam Houston, and I were assigned to this detachment as combat medics.
I learned that the 3rd Recon was on standby after having been at the front lines in a sector called “Iron Triangle Hills”. Soon, the 3rd I.D. returned to the front lines to relieve the 1st Calvary Division, which was near the Imjin and Yokkok rivers. During this time, the division maintained two regiments on the from and one in reserve, rotating them to provide relief from combat duties. These regiments were the 7th, 15th, and 65th. At the time, the 3rd Recon was attached to the 15th Regiment, which was known as “The Can Do Regiment”.
MEDIC ANTONIO “TONY” MUÑIZ ATTACHED TO 65TH REGIMENT
During my last six months of combat duty on the front lines, we were attached to the aforementioned 65th Regiment. The 3rd I.D. had been assigned to relieve the 1st R.O.K Division, the enemy launched a company-sized attack against one of our division’s forward positions on a hill called “O.P Nori”, but was repelled.
The battle over that hill and another one called “Outpost Kelly Hill” continued throughout the month, with activities increasing day by day. For a time, the 65th had control of O.P. Kelly Hill (I don’t recall which company it was). There soon erupted a bitter battle on Kelly Hill, where the enemy began to concentrate its forces and its shelling. The enemy succeeded in capturing this hill. But, by July of 1952, the 3rd I.D. managed to recapture it. The enemy continued to increase its shelling of these hills. Obviously, they really wanted to control them.
Despite the heavy shelling, the 3rd Recon’s 1st Platoon continued to patrol around these hills, especially around Kelly Hill. My platoon leader was Lieutenant Reynolds, from Tucson, Arizona. The platoon sergeant was Sgt. Berganni. (I’m not sure how his name is spelled.) One day during this period, Lt. Reynolds received orders to relieve the men of the 65th who were holding a position at O.P. Kelly Hill.
We prepared to go down to the MLR (Main Line of Resistance) and into enemy territory toward the hill. We were about halfway there when something happened that caused the password to change. When we arrived in the dark of night, the men of the 65th expected us to know the new password. We did not. They became wary and prepared to shoot. After all, they were almost surrounded by enemy troops.
We knew that if they started to shoot, we would be unable to return fire, as these were our friends. That’s when Lt. Reynolds asked me to speak to them in Spanish (I’m Mexican-American), hoping I could convince them of who were were. I yelled out to them in Spanish several times. Finally, their lieutenant in charge called out that the person speaking Spanish could advance slowly by himself.
I began to make my way up this very steep hill. As many of you will recall, these hills were steep, rocky, and some, like the one we were on, were criss-crossed with tunnels. When I reached the top, I met with their lieutenant and convinced him of who we were. The rest of my platoon was allowed to advance. The two lieutenants exchanged orders, and began to make their way back to the MLR.
I hope that Lt. Reynolds or, for that matter, anyone involved in this tense and frightful incident is still alive to confirm what I am writing and contact me. After all, this incident, along with others I mention, was an important event in our lives that we shared during what is now referred to as “the hellest war”.
BATTLE RAGED AT O.P. KELLY HILL, O.P. NORI HILL
Around the 17th or 18th of September, the battle raged on and the enemy again attacked the 3rd Division’s elements at O.P. Kelly Hill, capturing it in a bitter hand-to-hand battle. Despite repeated counterattacks by the 3rd I.D., especially by the 65th, we were unable to recapture the hill by the end of September! By that time, we had also lost control of O.P. Nori Hill.
The enemy had thrown everything they had into these hills, including heavy shelling from artillery and mortar rounds. During this period, I was fighting with the 1st Platoon of the 3rd Recon Co. One day during this fighting we were caught in a fierce battle between the enemy and the 65th. My unit, as well as the men of the 65th, was taking heavy casualties, and we were in retreat toward the MLR.
As we were retreating, we carried as many wounded as we could, but we couldn’t get them all. We were leaving behind many, mostly from the 65th, in the rice paddies between the MLR and the hills. We finally reached the MLR. Just as we were about to take cover in the bunkers, a captain from the 65th walked to a nearby group and asked for volunteers to return to the rice paddies and rescue as many wounded men as possible who were left behind.
I began to think about the rice paddies. It was not exactly an ideal place to be running from danger. The mud was shin high and it was common practice to use human feces for fertilizer. However, I began to put myself in the position of one of these wounded men who might have been trying desperately to get out of there. So I walked up to this captain and told him that I would go. Soon after this, Lt. Reynolds, Cpl. Provenzano, and two others from my platoon also volunteered.
Our captain asked Lt. Reynolds if he was sure we wanted to go. After all, he pointed out, these were not men from our unit. Lt. Reynolds responded, “If my men are going, then so am I.”
To make matters worse, it was raining really hard. We made our way back to the rice fields, which the enemy was still firing on. As we looked around, we notice that many lay dead. However, we were able to save several men after making 2 or 3 more trips back. We also brought back the dead ones. It was a truly miserable day for a few of us, and I don’t know exactly how many lives were saved. My hope is that any living members of the 65th Regiment, especially any who were among the ones saved that day, will contact me.
IRON TRIANGLE – T-BONE, WHITEHORSE, HARRY AND JACKSON HEIGHTS
By early October, the 3rd Infantry was engaged in daily patrols in an area of hills known as the “Iron Triangle”. Individual hills here had names like T-Bone, Whitehorse, Harry, and Jackson Heights. By this time, I had earned enough points to be out of the combat zones, and I should have been preparing to leave Korea, as my buddy, who had been sent with me, already had. However, I received a report that they didn’t have a replacement for me. I worried about this predicament, and began to have negative thoughts. I was weary of combat, the carnage, and the hell. My nerves were shattered.
Despite my predicament, I continued to go on patrols. One night, we were on patrol around Jackson Heights Hill, where the 65th was holding a position. It had snowed, and the ground was covered with white powder. We were on a reconnaissance patrol well into enemy territory near Jackson Heights Hill. On our way back, we encountered a dead Chinese soldier.
Lt. Reynolds reminded us not to touch the body as it may have been booby trapped.
By the time we made it back to the MLR, it was already night time. Lt. Reynolds mentioned the dead Chinese soldier in his report. This turned out to be a big mistake as he was given orders to return across enemy lines to the site where the body lay, tie a rope to his foot and move him to make sure that he was not booby trapped, because elements of the 65th might be moving through there and might possibly make the mistake of moving the body while looking for souvenirs.
As Lt. Reynolds gave the order to go back, he noticed me shaking. “What’s the matter, Doc?” he asked.
“I don’t know, lieutenant,” I responded. “I have a bad feeling about this. I think I was just meant to die in this God-forsaken place. I should already be back in the rear, getting ready to go home!”
He tried to comfort me. “We’ll make it, Doc,” he said. “And I promise you that I’ll do whatever it takes to find you a replacement. You’ve been out here long enough.”
Somehow, his words gave me courage as we made our way back toward the dead Chinese soldier. When we finally reached the body, we tied a rope to his foot and dragged him about 50 feet to make sure he wasn’t booby trapped. To bring back proof of this action, Lt. Reynolds went under the swollen body and recovered a wallet. Again, we were extremely fortunate that no contact was made with enemy soldiers.
NO SURRENDER, NO RETREAT
Later on during the day, we were told to be on alert as enemy troops were fixing to make an all-out attack on Jackson Heights Hill. Soon after this, all hell broke loose as the enemy began to rain artillery and mortar shells on Jackson Heights. Heavy shelling continued all night and into the next day. I believe it was Company F of the 65th Regiment – that was trying to hold their position at the crest of the hill, in an area known as “Chorwon Valley” – was also taking intense artillery fire.
We were observing from the foot of this hill as the 65th suffered heavy casualties. The commander of the 65th asked for permission to retreat, as their casualties were mounting. But, orders came from Headquarters in Seoul – nowhere near the action – to hold their position. Even though they were sitting ducks, they tried bravely to hold their position until most of them were wounded or dead. One by one, as their companions fell by their sides, the few who could walk began to make their way down from the hill.
Wounded as they were, they crossed some rice fields, which had been mined by the enemy. This resulted in even more casualties for the 65th. Cpl. Provenzano, I, and a couple other members of my platoon ran down to the rice field, which was being fired upon heavily by mortar and artillery rounds. We helped as many wounded soldiers out of there as we could.
By the time we made it back to the MLR with the wounded, a colonel from the 65th was waiting to take names of the soldiers who had abandoned the hill and escort them to the rear, where they were to face disciplinary actions and/or court-martial. They were being labeled as cowards.
When I heard about this, I became very angry. I had fought alongside these brave men during the last six months of my combat duty on the front lines. It was beyond my comprehension how these men, who had bravely fought the enemy with almost no regard for their own lives, were being labeled as cowards. I – and my comrades from the 1st Platoon, 3rd Recon Co. – know the truth! I pray that if any members of my platoon are still living, that my story is confirmed – before the truth dies with us.
On November 9th, 1952, the enemy launched another fierce attack. I was wounded by shrapnel from field artillery or mortar fire. I was treated for my wounds, and my tour in Korea finally came to an end.
HELLISH WAR SHALL NOT BECOME “THE FORGOTTEN WAR”
I write about this because we Korean War vets are getting old. I have had two open-heart surgeries, and my time on this earth is very limited. So before I meet my Creator, I wanted to share this story.
I realize that most combat veterans have their own stories to tell. But few stories about Korea are known or talked about; and there are not nearly enough movies or books about the Korean War made as about Vietnam or WWII. I hope that more Korean War veterans will speak out about “the hellest war”, also known as “The Forgotten War”.
I read a Department of Defense statistical report that more artillery rounds were fired in Korea than in WWII and Vietnam put together. I won’t argue with that. I was there! Haunting moments of soldiers’ last words as they died in my arms are forever burned in my memory.
I have heard that the men of the 65th have been exonerated for their actions on Jackson Heights Hill. I don’t know for sure. I just want the surviving members to know that they have a friend in me, and I will always stand by their side. Viva el Sesenta y Cinco (65th), the 3rd Recon Co., the rest of the 3rd Infantry Division, and all Korean War combat veterans.
Speak out and let the world know so that maybe this hellish war will not truly become “The Forgotten War”.
MEMORIAL DAY 2016 CEREMONY
Other key highlights of the Memorial Day 2016 ceremony featuring Mr. Muñiz receiving the Congressional Gold Medal are featured in the following transcription from the event.
Mrs. Marla Cavazos (Daughter)
We are deeply honored that Congress and State Representative Terry Canales realized the great sacrifice that my father, Mr. Tony Muñiz, and his fellow soldiers in combat made in order to save so many lives and bring them home to their loved ones. He has waited 60 years to be thanked for all that he and so many endured. My father is a humble man, and he has never forgotten his fellow veterans. He recalls many different events and has published them in various military magazines. While at home he continued to serve his fellow veterans as a Brooks County Veterans officer. His sacrifice and that of all our American soldiers will never be forgotten. We thank all in Congress and State Representative Terry Canales for bringing this medal home to him.
Brooks County Judge Imelda Barrera
Congratulations, Mr. Muñiz. This is long overdue. You are one of our heroes. We can’t thank you enough for your service. I can’t imagine what you must have gone through. Thank you and your family for bringing this home to us to be a part of.
Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa
I am so very happy to be here today to honor Mr. Muñiz. We are truly thankful to all who died and to all who served for us to be free. Mr. Muñiz, you are one of those brave men and I congratulate you. It is my honor to be here with you and your community today.
State Representative Terry Canales
We couldn’t have been more proud to coordinate this event. It is so important to recognize this man and all veterans who saw the bloodshed and who truly sacrificed so much. It is because of them and what they put on the line for us, that we are able to enjoy our freedom and the simple pleasures of life.
We cannot forget the sacrifices they did so that we can stand here today to live in a free country. That freedom comes at a price.
Today is a special day. We are here to honor a life who saved lives.
Bravery is not the absence of fear, but controlling that fear to ensure their country is safe.
Mr. Muñiz was one of those brave men that stepped up when he was needed. His unit was the last Army Unit to use the bayonet in combat. I would personally like to award him this medal. We drafted a resolution for him from the State of Texas.
The state legislative honor reads:
R E S O L U T I O N
WHEREAS, U.S. Army veteran Antonio Muñiz of Falfurrias served with the 65th Infantry Regiment during the Korean War, and surviving members of that unit were presented with the Congressional Gold Medal at the U.S. Capitol on April 13, 2016; and
WHEREAS, The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor bestowed by the U.S. Congress; because he was unable to attend the event in Washington, Mr. Muniz is being honored in his hometown of Falfurrias on May 30, 2016; and
WHEREAS, Known as the Borinqueneers, the 65th Infantry Regiment was a Puerto Rican unit that had also fought bravely in World War I and World War II; in Korea, the unit engaged in fierce combat, taking heavy casualties and earning nine Distinguished Service Crosses as well as more than 600 Bronze Stars and 2,700 Purple Hearts; and
WHEREAS, Tony “Doc” Muñiz served as a combat medic with the 65th Infantry for six months, risking his life on a daily basis while enduring harsh weather conditions, treacherous terrain, and constant and heavy enemy fire; on many occasions, he displayed incredible bravery in rescuing his wounded comrades and collecting the dead, and he himself was wounded on one such mission in November 1952; and
WHEREAS, For his courage in Korea, Mr. Muñiz received the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart; he was also awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Combat Medical Badge 1st Award, the United Nations Service Medal, and the Korean Service Medal with bronze service star; still justifiably proud of his service, he published an article in 2005 in The Graybeards magazine chronicling both his own harrowing experiences and the fortitude of the 65th Infantry; and
WHEREAS, Americans owe a profound debt of gratitude to those men and women who take up arms in defense of our nation, and Antonio Muñiz and the other members of the 65th Infantry Regiment are truly deserving of this long-overdue recognition of their bravery, their devotion to duty, and their sacrifice; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That Antonio Muñiz be commended for his valiant service with the 65th Infantry Regiment in the Korean War and that he be congratulated on his unit’s receipt of a Congressional Gold Medal.
“COURAGE DOES NOT KNOW COLOR: DECENCY DOES NOT PICK SIDES”
The Congressional Gold Medal was presented to the 65th Infantry Regiment during a formal ceremony hosted by U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, on April 13, 2016.
However, Mr. Muñiz chose to receive his Congressional Gold Medal in his hometown of Falfurrias with his community and among his friends and family.
In awarding of this medal to the men, Ryan said “the story of the 65th Regiment is full of heroics.”
The Borinqueneers “showed us time and again that, courage does not know color; decency does not pick sides,” said Ryan. “These men did not fight to preserve the status quo; they fought to make their country better. And they succeeded.”
Although President Harry Truman issued an executive order in 1948 ensuring equality in the armed services, this policy was not yet fully realized by the start of the Korean War. As a result, African American, Hispanic and Puerto Rican soldiers served in segregated units.
More than 200 Borinqueneers and their family members attended the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony, which was held in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, including Sergeant Major José Colón and Colonel Manuel Siverio, Sr.
In accepting the Congressional Gold Medal, Colonel Siverio said the medal is a “well-deserved tribute to the brave men who fought many hard battles.” He added, the Borinqueneers’ “devotion to duty and many acts of valor against the enemy demonstrated their skills and their loyalty to the United States.”
It is written in history that back then, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commander of U.S. and United Nations forces in Korea, agreed that “the 65th had the best damn soldiers he had ever seen.”
He added, “They are writing a brilliant record of achievement in battle, and I am proud indeed to have them in this command. I wish that we might have many more like them.”
President Obama signed bills passed by the House and Senate to honor the legacy of the 65th with the award of the Congressional Gold Medal.
Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County. HD 4o includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, San Carlos and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426.