NEW BRITAIN - The effort to honor a Puerto Rican regiment of the U.S. Army is finally coming to fruition, as the city is ready to break ground on a monument honoring the 65th Infantry Regiment, known as the . Borinqueneers
City officials, state representatives, members of the Latino Coalition and members of the Veterans Commission will hold a ceremony at noon Saturday to celebrate the beginning of the monument’s construction.
“New Britain has a longstanding tradition of honoring our service men and women,” Mayor Erin Stewart said in a statement announcing the groundbreaking ceremony. “We are extremely proud of the contributions that the Borinqueneers have made for our country and our city. Their acts were heroic and their actions should never be forgotten.”
The U.S. Army unit was active in 1899 and officially renamed the Borinqueneers in 1920. The 65th Regiment participated in World War I, World War II and the Korean War.
Fighting in the Korean War, the Borinqueneers were honored with more than 2,700 Purple Hearts, a Medal of Honor, nine Distinguished Service Crosses, more than 250 Silver Stars and more than 600 Bronze Stars.
The effort to honor the 65th Regiment has happened at a national level, too. The Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Alliance was formed in 2012 with the goal of pursuing the medal for the unit. On April 13, 2016, the Borinqueneers were presented with the Congressional Gold Medal.
For New Britain, the effort to get a monument for the regiment has gone back years.
“I’m so excited that this monument is ready to begin construction,” said state Rep. Robert Sanchez, D-New Britain, who has been fighting at the statewide level for the monument’s funding and support. “A lot of people have worked very hard for this.”
Sanchez said he first heard the idea for the monument shortly after he was elected in 2011 when a 65th Infantry veteran approached him with the suggestion. After finding a spot for the monument to go in the city - with a few hurdles along the way - it was time to find funding.
Sanchez said that the late state Rep. Betty Boukus and with Gov. Dannel Malloy were crucial in the effort to gain funding for the monument.
Sanchez said members of the New Britain community have been very supportive of the efforts to create a monument for the 65th Regiment in the city. The Latino Coalition, the Veterans Commission and Parks and Recreation Director Eric Barbieri were crucial to finding engineers and designers for the project, and the Common Council and Mayor Stewart have also been advocates for the monument, Sanchez said.
LaRosa Earth Group of Meriden is handling construction of the monument and Crosskey Architects of Hartford has handled the design and engineering.
The project is expected to cost $300,000 and the state will reimburse the city for the costs, as decided by the state’s Bond Commission. City officials expect the project to be completed in October.
The monument will be located at the intersection of Beaver and Washington streets, and Farmington Avenue - across from the New Britain Fire Department headquarters.
“I’m sure that the remaining Borinqueneers, once they hear about it, will be excited to visit the new monument,” Sanchez said.