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Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 - October 15

Hispanic Americans in the U.S. Army

During Hispanic American Heritage Month the U.S. Army recognizes the achievements and contributions of these individuals. America's diversity is a source of strength, and Hispanic Americans have not hesitated to defend and show their allegiance to this nation in many ways, but especially through military service.

Originally a week-long celebration approved by President Johnson, National Hispanic Heritage Month (15 September - 15 October) was enacted into law in 1988. The celebration heightens our attention to diversity and the many contributions Hispanics have made to enrich the United States.

The observance commences on 15 September to coincide with the day several Latin American countries celebrate their Independence Day. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua celebrate their Independence Day on 15 September, Mexico on 16 September (not on 5 May/"Cinco de Mayo"), and Chile on 18 September. Columbus Day, "Día de la Raza", is also celebrated during Hispanic Heritage Month.

For years, the Army has forged relationships with Hispanic associations, and will continue to support and sponsor professional development forums. Through these relationships, the Army further increases awareness among key Hispanic audiences of the educational and career opportunities available in the Army.

Corporal Eugene C. Rivera

Corporal Eugene C. Rivera On April 25, 1951, the Eighth Ranger Company (Airborne) found themselves heavily engaged with Chinese forces as they provided forward reconnaissance during the withdrawal of the 24th Infantry Division near a Korean terrain feature designated Hill 628. Operating the only remaining radio, Corporal (CPL) Eugene C. Rivera, a Communications Chief with the Rangers, adjusted artillery fire upon the enemy. Despite their best efforts, friendly troops were unable to break through the Chinese lines to reconnect with the isolated unit. As casualties mounted, the Rangers were encouraged to, "Get out the best you can." Not willing to abandon any Soldier, the Rangers prepared to make their final stand as CPL Rivera spotted American tanks. To save his fellow Rangers, CPL Rivera bravely climbed a desolate hill, and while under relentless fire from the enemy, established and maintained radio contact with the tank platoon leader. His selfless act allowed the M46 Patton, tiger-striped tanks of the Sixth Tank Battalion to break the enemy encirclement and evacuate the wounded.

Above: CPL Eugene C. Rivera, Eighth Ranger Company (Airborne) attached to the 24th Infantry Division, Korea 1951.

Eighth Ranger Company

Eighth Ranger Company (Airborne) Fort Carson Colorado, February 1951. CPL Eugene C. Rivera is seated in the first row second from the left.

The Borinqueneers

The Borinqueneers - South Korea, February 2, 1951

The Borinqueneers - South Korea, February 2, 1951

In August 1950 the Korean War was less than two months old, and Puerto Rico's 65th Infantry Regiment was on its way to the combat zone. The regiment landed at the port city of Pusan on the Korean Peninsula's southern tip, where U.S. forces had been holding a perimeter against the Communist North Korean invaders. Sent into action immediately, the Puerto Ricans took part in the U.S. breakout and drive to the north. Following the brilliantly planned and executed surprise landings at Inchon, U.S. and other United Nations forces drove deep into the mountains of North Korea.

At that point a huge Chinese Army entered the war. The U.S. Eighth Army was overrun, and the 1st Marine Division, with attached U.S. and British Army Units, was completely encircled. In one of the greatest fighting retreats in history, the outnumbered Marines battled their way south to the coast. The first friendly troops they saw on the frozen ridgetops were the Puerto Ricans of the 65th Infantry Regiment, sent to hold the perimeter around the vital port of Hungnam. The Puerto Ricans supervised the evacuation of Hungnam, finally sailing themselves on Christmas Eve, 1950.

The 65th landed in Pusan as they had five months before, and again fought their way northward. Late January 1951 found them south of the Korean capital of Seoul, under orders to take two hills being held by the Chinese 149th Division. The assault began on on January 31st, and took three days.

On the morning of the third day the top of the hills were within reach, and two battalions of the 65th fixed bayonets and charged straight at the enemy positions. The Chinese fled.

During its service in Korea, the men of the 65th Infantry won four Distinguished Service Crosses and 125 Silver Stars. The "The Borinqueneers" were also awarded the Presidential and Meritorious Unit Commendations, two Korean Presidential Unit Citations and the Greek Gold Medal for Bravery.

The 65th Infantry Regiment's gallant service in a difficult war is exemplified by its regimental motto, "Honor and Fidelity," and the regiment itself exemplifies the National Guard's leading role in our nation's military history.

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