Ken Harbaugh tells the stories of service members who have distinguished themselves through an act of valor. These stories feature recipients from the Civil War to present day, including a few who were originally overlooked for the medal.
M.Sgt. Juan Negrón fought with the Borinqueneers, an all-Puerto Rican regiment, in Korea.
He did not originally receive the Medal of Honor, but was one of the 24 veterans to whom President Obama awarded the medal in 2014 - veterans who should have received it in the first place, but had been overlooked due to their race or religion.
Ken Harbaugh: Welcome to the Medal of Honor podcast, brought to you in partnership with the National Medal of Honor Museum. I’m Ken Harbaugh. In each episode, we’ll learn about a different service member who has distinguished him or herself through an act of valor.
Master Sergeant Juan Negrón was born in Corozal, Puerto Rico in 1929.
In March of 1948, he enlisted in the US Army and joined the 65th Infantry regiment - a Puerto Rican regiment first activated in 1917. The 65th Infantry had nicknamed themselves the Borinqueneers during their long sea voyage from Puerto Rico to Korea in 1950.
The name came from one of the two original native tribes of Puerto Rico, the Borinquen. Many of the men in the regiment were direct descendants of that tribe,.
The winters in Korea were harsh and the Borinqueneers were not properly outfitted. Not to mention the fact that they were born and raised in a semitropical climate. Most of them had never even seen snow before Korea.
In April of 1951, Sgt Negrón’s unit came under heavy enemy attack near Kalma-Eri in Korea.
He took up the most vulnerable position on his company’s exposed right flank and refused to abandon it, even after other elements of the company began to withdraw.
Hostile forces broke through a roadblock and began to close in. Sgt. Negrón threw hand grenades at short range, stopping them in their tracks.
He held his position throughout the night. Meanwhile, a counter attack was organized , repelling the enemy troops.
After the area was cleared, the company discovered 15 enemy dead mere feet from Sgt. Negron’s position.
Sgt. Negrón was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
But in 2002, Congress called for a review of war records of Jewish and Hispanic veterans from World War II, the Korean Conflict, and Vietnam. They wanted to ensure that those who deserved a Medal of Honor had not been denied due to prejudice.
Through this review, President Obama identified cases in which discrimination played a role in the original award and, in February of 2014, he announced 24 veterans who should have received the Medal of Honor in the first place, but had been overlooked due to their race or religion.
One of these 24 was Sgt. Juan Negrón. He passed away in 1996, but his daughter Iris accepted the Medal of Honor on his behalf in a ceremony at the White House.
President Barack Obama: For their gallantry under fire each of these soldiers was long ago recognized with the Army’s second-highest award... But ask their fellow veterans, ask their families, and they’ll tell you that their extraordinary deeds merited the highest recognition. And today, we have the chance to set the record straight.
KH: The Medal of Honor podcast is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. We are proud to support the National Medal of Honor Museum. To learn more, and to support their mission, go to mohmuseum.org. Thanks for listening.