MEDINA, OH - It's no small task making American history. However, through service to his country Francisco Colon, 89, originally of Puerto Rico, accomplished that task all while speaking little English.
Saturday, the Korean War Veteran was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal - among other awards - at his nursing home, Brookdale Medina South. He served in the famous 65th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed "The Borinqueneers." According to the U.S. Department of Defense, it was the last desegregated unit of Puerto Rican soldiers.
"I try to be humble in all the things you know because all the people suffered the same," said Colon about receiving the award. "...I wish to share these medals."
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award in the county given to a person who has made an important impact on U.S. history and culture. Colon's unit was awarded the same medal on Capitol Hill in 2016.
Colon was one of many veterans awarded with service medals spanning from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He was surrounded by family who explained how he worked to learn English on foreign soil all while fighting a war.
"They all united because they were all from Puerto Rico," said Colon's daughter, Martha Romero. "The language barrier, it's what connected them."
Congressman Jim Renacci of Ohio's 16th district presented the veterans with their medals during an emotional service surrounded by the family members of veterans, some deceased before they were able to receive their awards.
"For those that have given us the opportunity to be free, I want to make sure that I do everything I can to make sure we honor them and protect them," said Congressman Renacci.
The event was attended by veterans who found joy in watching others receive accolades long overdue.
"Every time you do one of these it's like you do it for the first time," said Vietnam Veteran Mike Schrull, of the American Legion Riders, Post 118. "To see these heroes that made our country what it is today and sacrificed what they sacrificed it's awesome."
There was no mistaking the joy on Colon's face, surrounded by his large family, holding his five medals.
"Sometimes he drives us crazy but he's a loving person," said Leida Arley, Colon's daughter. "I mean wherever he stands he is noticed...he has a heart of gold."
Now her father, an American hero, has a Congressional Gold Medal to match.