On the 50th anniversary of their arrival in Korea, veterans of the 65th Infantry Regiment from
Puerto Rico gathered at Arlington National Cemetery and were recognized for their Korean War service.
Army Secretary Louis Caldera laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, dedicated a tree and unveiled a plaque at the cemetery Sept. 20 in honor of 65th Infantry soldiers. During the Korean War, six of the soldiers earned the Distinguished Service Cross, more than 130 earned the Silver Star and more than 3,800 received the Purple Heart for being wounded or killed in action.
The unit is unique in Army and National Guard history Organized soon after the United States took control of Puerto Rico in 1899, the 65th was initially an active-- duty unit comprised solely of local men who served only on the island in peacetime.
By the Korean War, the 65th Infantry was similar to a Guard unit. Members never transferred and there were many fathers and sons serving together. In 1959, the Army reorganized the unit and allotted it, along with its lineage and honors, to the Puerto Rico Army Guard.
One of the Distinguished Service Cross recipients, 80-- year-old Modesto Cartagena, traveled from Puerto Rico to be at the ceremony. He wore his class A uniform with sergeant first class stripes. "I'm very proud to be here today," Modesto said through the translation of his son, a retired border patrol agent.
Modesto's citation credits him with "single-handedly" knocking out enemy machine-gun emplacements on hill 206 near Yonchon, Korea, in April 1951. Modesto said he destroyed the enemy positions with grenades the Chinese threw at him, but he hurled back.
The 65th Infantry participated in nine major battles in Korea, said Maj. Gen. Roger C. Schultz, Army National Guard director. During welcoming remarks at the ceremony, he said the unit's action in December 1950 is "recognized as one of the most significant in the annals of military history."
In December of 1950, U.N. forces had fought across Korea and almost reached the Manchurian border when thousands of Chinese troops entered the fight. The 65th did a blocking action, enabling the Marines to withdraw.