Borinqueneer receives long-overdue award for Korean War service

By Courtesy Story | U.S. Army | Feb. 5, 2019

AIBONITO, Puerto Rico — Retired Brig. Gen. Fernando Fernandez, U.S. Army Reserve Ambassador in Puerto Rico, and Agustin Montañez, Puerto Rico Veterans' Advocate, traveled to Aibonito, a mountainous town in the center of the island of Puerto Rico, Feb. 4, to present a replica of the Congressional Gold Medal to Pfc. Jose Nicolas Latorre Ortiz for his service in Korea as member of the 65th Infantry Regiment.

"On behalf of the Puerto Rico Veterans' Advocate office and the Army Reserve in Puerto Rico, we come here to present to you this Congressional medal, in recognition to your service to the Nation in Korea," said Fernandez.

Latorre Ortiz was born in Orocovis, Puerto Rico in 1927. He joined the U.S. Army in 1952.

"I was a shoe shine guy. I saw the opportunity to do something else by joining the Army and jumped into the opportunity," said Latorre, while remembering that he joined the Army as a volunteer.

"I went to Korea right after training to defend the nation. I am very proud," added Latorre.

At the moment of receiving the medal, Latorre was accompanied by his son Alfredo and his daughter Rosa.

"I am very proud right now and eternally grateful for this recognition to my father. It is important that they receive the recognition they deserve," said his son Alfredo.

As part of his service, Latorre also has the Combat Infantry Badge, the Korean Service Medal and the United Nations Service Medal.

The 65th is the first Hispanic unit and the sole unit from the Korean War to receive the Congressional Gold Medal and the regiment is also credited with the last battalion-sized bayonet assault in Army history.

Even though the Borinqueneers were presented the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony on Capitol Hill in 2016, some members of the 65th Infantry Regiment did not received it at that time. 

"This is something that my dad will never forget. He wanted to receive the medal, and now he has it. Thank you very much for making this dream a reality," added his daughter Rosa.

Approximately 61,000 U.S. Soldiers from Puerto Rico served in the Korean War.