Harlem Rep. Espaillat Honors Harlem Hellfighters On The United States House Floor

June 16, 2021

Today, Representative Adriano Espaillat spoke on the United States House floor in support of H.R. 3642, The Harlem Hellfighters Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2021, which passed in the House earlier this afternoon.

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Reps. Espaillat and Tom Suozzi (D-NY), in collaboration with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), introduced The Harlem Hellfighters Congressional Gold Medal Act, legislation to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the 369th Infantry Regiment, commonly known as the “Harlem Hellfighters.” To date, the legislation has received overwhelming bipartisan support, garnering more than 290 cosponsors prior to the formal introduction.

The following are remarks by Rep. Espaillat, as prepared for delivery:

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“Thank you Mr./Madam speaker. And thank you Congressman Suozzi for your leadership on this bill and for working with me in this fight for justice. I’d also like to thank Chairwoman Waters and Ranking Member McHenry for working with us to get this bill out of the committee.

“Today, I rise to support this bill and to honor a group of brave men who have yet to receive their due commendation, the Harlem Hellfighters. This distinguished group of African American and Puerto Rican men were patriots of the highest valor. Their bravery, dedication, perseverance, and service helped the United States and our allied forces in our fight to secure victory.

“But, Mr./Madam Speaker, these fighters weren’t even permitted to serve alongside their fellow white soldiers. Our government threw them by the wayside – assigning their unit to the French, rather than our own! They put their lives on the line for the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, despite doing so at a time when many like them did not enjoy the very freedoms they fought to protect.

“These men spent 191 days in combat and were the most active regiment throughout the entirety of the First World War. Under constant enemy fire and cast away from the nation they swore an oath to protect, they still persevered. Fighting until the end.

“There is no doubt that their heroism impacted the outcome of World War I, and undoubtedly, American History. This bill is a necessary first step to righting this decades-old injustice.

“It’s about time that the Harlem Hellfighters’ invaluable contributions be commemorated, and their service be formally recognized by this government. Let’s finally give these men the Congressional Gold Medal they deserve.

“Thank you, and I yield back.”

Representative Espaillat is the first Dominican American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and his congressional district includes Harlem, East Harlem, West Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Washington Heights, Inwood, Marble Hill and the north-west Bronx.

First elected to Congress in 2016, Representative Espaillat is serving his third term in Congress. Representative Espaillat currently serves as a member of the influential U.S. House Committee on Appropriations responsible for funding the federal government’s vital activities.

He is also a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), where he serves as the Second Vice Chair and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, where he serves as Deputy Whip.

Representative Espaillat also currently serves as a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus. To find out more about Rep. Espaillat, visit online at https://espaillat.house.gov/.

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