A week before Veterans Day, four fortunate cadets from Roberto Clemente High School had the opportunity to honor war veterans whose heroism was sadly forgotten for decades. Alongside The 65th Infantry Division Veterans Home, the organization that arranged the event, these color guard cadets presented the colors in front of over forty veterans at Norwegian American Hospital in the Humboldt Park community.
All of the veterans there had been part of the 65th Infantry Regiment, also referred to as The Borinqueneers, a Puerto Rican Regiment of the United States Army that fought in World War I and II, as well as the Korean War. These soldiers were the victims of discrimination from their very own leaders and all fought many prejudices, including humiliation caused by their non-Hispanic officers in combat.
For decades, their successes and dedication were forgotten, and it wasn’t until April of 2016 when the Infantry was awarded a Congressional gold medal, the highest honor the U.S Congress could ever give, that their heroism was brought to light again. This is the same medal awarded to Roberto Clemente, the only Latino individual to receive it, and only about one hundred sixty others.
Before enjoying a meal in remembrance of the veterans’ great valor and bravery, everyone listened carefully to a veteran give a touching speech in which he displayed a small round table with items that represented a range of experiences of veterans serving this country: hope, union, and the absence of family.
The most significant item displayed was an empty red chair, a symbol of the lost lives of soldiers who were unable to be a part of such a special morning. It was unfortunate that not all of their comrades could be present, but it was inspiring to see all of the veterans smile and enjoy themselves despite the challenges they have faced.
Those of us present felt very appreciative of the hard work and tough sacrifices these courageous men and women went through to serve our country.