By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
The Army's 65th Infantry Regiment identifies the highlight of its service since its formation in 1898 as an attack against hostile forces at Kelly Hill in Korea on Feb. 2, 1951, the Army's last recorded battalion-sized bayonet assault.
Saturday, the Killeen-based Lone Star Chapter of the Borinqueneers, a motorcycle club honoring the 65th Regiment, paid tribute to some of the regiment's oldest veterans at the Indian Oaks Nursing Center in Harker Heights.
"The anniversary of the action in Korea was Tuesday, of course, but we wanted to schedule the celebration on a weekend so that more people could come," said Ruben Rivera, sergeant at arms of the Lone Star Chapter.
The 65th was deactivated as an active unit and transferred to the National Guard in Puerto Rico in 1956. The Borinqueneers, which the organization's Web site translates as "buccaneers," began in Connecticut, and chapters were subsequently formed in New York City, Pennsylvania, Florida and Puerto Rico. The Lone Star Chapter in Killeen was the first formed in Texas. Other chapters have been organized in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio. Several members of the Capital Chapter in Austin attended Saturday's celebration.
Master of ceremonies Edwin Asencio said some of Saturday's seven honorees are residents of Indian Oaks. One, Juan Rivera Mercado, is recently deceased. Some made careers of the Army, and the service of all of them spans World War II through Korea until their retirements.
According to the printed program:
Mercado served in Germany in World War II and again in Korea as a heavy mortar crewman, serving nearly five years thereafter as a National Guardsman.
Jose G. Melendez served in Korea in K Company, 3rd Battalion of the 65th and retired as a command master sergeant after 28 years of service.
Victor Roldan Carrero joined the Army before his 18th birthday and served in both World War II and Korea, where he received the Purple Heart. Later, he helped organize the Puerto Rican Parade in New York and volunteered with the only Spanish-language radio station in Killeen after moving here.
Angel Rosario received the Bronze Star with V device twice in Korea and served 27 years on active duty, later working 22 years with the Bell County sheriff's department.
Nestor A. Rivera joined the U.S. Navy in 1943 and joined the Army in 1945, serving until 1965 with service with the 65th in Korea. He worked with the Fort Hood commissary until he retired again.
Enrique Hernandez Alvarado, born on July 4, 1930, was drafted into the Army in 1950 and served in Korea, remaining in the service until 1971.
Jose Lopez enlisted in the Army at the age of 19 in 1950 and served in the 65th's medical company in Korea as a medical assistant and ambulance driver.
All the honorees received Borinqueneers motorcycle vests, and several put them on at the service. All had several family members present.
Asencio said the 65th was the only segregated Hispanic unit in the Army and faced some difficulties because many of its soldiers spoke only Spanish, while superior officers spoke only English. Nevertheless, the regiment fired the first American shots in World War I and went through active combat in World War II but suffered most of its casualties in Korea between 1950 and 1953.
The Kelly Hill action by two battalions with fixed bayonets followed a three-day standoff with Chinese troops who fled in the face of the attack. All together in Korea, soldiers in the regiment won four Distinguished Service Crosses and 125 Silver Stars. The regiment earned Presidential and Meritorious Unit Commendations, two Korean Presidential Citations and the Greek Gold Medal for Bravery. The regiment's motto "Honor et Fidelitas" ("Honor and Fidelity") is emblazoned on the Borinqueneers' vests.
Contact Don Bolding at email@example.com or (254) 501-7557. Follow him on Twitter at KDHbusiness.