Overcoming Expectations of Others

When the U.S. defeated Spain in the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico became a U.S. Territory. Four months later, an act of Congress created a military unit in Puerto Rico made up of volunteers. Eight years later, the military unit became a part of the U.S. Army. The name Borinqueneers was the joining together of the Indian name for Puerto Rico and buccaneers. Officially, the Borinqueneers were the 65th Regiment of the Army.

During World War I, the unit was never sent to fight in Europe, but they were the first military unit to confront the Germans. Germany had a supply ship in San Juan Harbor which it intended to supply German submarines. The supply ship was kept in the harbor by the Borinqueneers and its supplies confiscated.

During World War II, the Borinqueneers saw action in Europe primarily in the Alps, a challenge because of the cold temperatures. During its time in World War II, the Borinqueneers distinguished themselves with a Silver Star, 22 Bronze Stars, and 90 Purple Heart medals. But like the experiences of African American and Japanese American soldiers, the Borinqueneers were not fully accepted as a fighting unit.

Prior to the start of the Korean War, the Borinqueneers distinguished themselves in a training exercise against the best-trained soldiers of the Army. The Bourinqueneers were subsequently engaged in military action in Korea. In conflict after conflict, the Borinqueneers prevailed. A total of 61,000 Puerto Ricans served in the Korean War (90% were volunteers). The awards presented to the unit included 1 Medal of Honor, 10 Distinguished Service Crosses, 256 Silver Stars, 606 Bronze Stars, and 2,771 Purple Hearts.

In 2016, the U.S Congress awarded the Borinqueneers the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award given. It is awarded to those “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.”

Hidden heroes often rise above the expectations that others have of them. It took nearly 50 years for the Borinqueneers to be accepted as a fighting force. Once accepted, they achieved beyond the expectation that anyone had for them. Hidden heroes are often deprived of a chance to prove themselves due in large part to prejudice and misinformed perceptions. The Borinqueneers proved themselves once given a chance.

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“If you accept the expectations of others, especially negative ones, then you will never change the outcome.” Michael Jordan

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