Celebrating a Hero: Sergeant Major José E. Colón

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019


On March 11, 1919, in the lush, tropical mountains of Orocovis, Puerto Rico, a child was born who would one day survive the muddy trenches of the Korean War and eventually receive the highest honor awarded by the United States Congress.

Sergeant Major José E. Colón was born to parents who lived a humble life, making their living on sugarcane fields. His parents lived through the final days of the Spanish Empire’s rule in the Americas and were unaware when the reigns of power transitioned into American hands after the Spanish-American War. Jose, along with his eight siblings, spent his early years working in the sugarcane industry.

By the time he was 18 in 1937, José decided to approach an Army recruiter in San Juan to enlist. José knew just enough English to fib his way through the lax process and soon found himself in an unorthodox version of basic training. His training was one-on-one with an Army instructor who taught him how to use a rifle and drive a jeep. Once he completed his training, José was assigned to the 65th Infantry Regiment. The 65th, known as “Los Borinqueneers,” was the only Hispanic-segregated outfit in the Army, consisting primarily of Puerto Rican soldiers.

José was tasked with being a driver for various high-ranking officers on the island. He would spend World War II driving or working from an office in the San Juan garrison. He quickly rose through the ranks, eventually reaching the rank of Sergeant. In 1945, José was to be shipped overseas to Japan for the invasion of the Japanese mainland. On his way to the Pacific with his fellow soldiers, however, word spread that a new weapon had been used on the industrial city of Hiroshima, followed by another in Nagasaki. While waiting in Texas for a transport to San Francisco, José learned that the war was finally over.

José would continue serving in the Army in his beloved Puerto Rico. By the time he received a call to serve overseas again, he had met his wife and started a family.  

When war broke out on the Korean Peninsula in 1950, the 65th was dispatched to combat. José and his men landed at Inchon in UN-held territory in November 1952. José served for a full year in Korea, and experienced combat for the first time in what would become known as the “Valley of Death.”

José and his men were surrounded by Chinese forces on all sides and the Chinese were supported by heavy artillery. On a cold and muddy day, José and one of his fellow soldiers were brewing coffee in one of the trenches to stay warm. Suddenly, a Chinese artillery barrage came raining down on their position. Both men took cover and waited out the assault. When it was finally over, José recalls, the coffee was nowhere to be found.

While in Korea, José was promoted to Sergeant Major, and was awarded the Bronze Star for his service and role in keeping morale high.

After the war, Sergeant Major Colón continued his service in the Army until his retirement in 1961. Following his military career, José pursued various vocations, including owning a gas station in his native Puerto Rico, working as a private investigator, selling insurance, and, after moving to Orlando, Florida in the mid-90s, combating Medicare fraud. Jose’s family grew as his life went on, eventually adding four grandsons. Two of which followed in their grandfather’s footsteps and served their country as Marine Corps and Army pilots, respectively.

On June 10, 2014, President Barack Obama signed a bill that would confer the Congressional Gold Medal on the 65th Infantry Regiment. On April 13, 2016, leaders from both political parties in both chambers of Congress presented the medal to a delegation of some of the highest-ranking surviving members of the 65th. Among the delegation was none other than Sergeant Major José E. Colón, now 97-years old.

This author is honored to say that Sergeant Major José E. Colón is his great-grandfather, and his greatest inspiration. God bless you, Sergeant Major, and happy birthday.

Carlos Andino graduated from the University of North Texas in December 2018. While originally a Bernie Sanders-voting Democrat, Carlos began a political shift towards constitutional conservatism later in his collegiate career. Carlos hopes to commission as an officer in the United States Navy.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Carlos Andino

University of North Texas

Carlos Andino graduated from the University of North Texas in December 2018. While originally a Bernie Sanders-voting Democrat, Carlos began a political shift towards constitutional conservatism later in his collegiate career. Carlos hopes to commission as an officer in the United States Navy.

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