By Ed Diokno
“Today, the Senate provided recognition to Filipino World War II veterans for their brave and courageous service to the United States,” said Sen. Hirono after the passage of the bill.
“These veterans were instrumental to an Allied victory in the Pacific theater, but their fight didn’t end with the war. For decades, they have continued to fight for the benefits they have earned and to be reunited with their families in the United States. I thank my Senate colleagues for joining me in recognizing these veterans’ service and sacrifice with the Congressional Gold Medal, one of our nation’s highest civilian honors.”
The House version of the resolution, House Resolution 2737 now faces the House of Representatives for approval. It is being championed by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii with 172 co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle.
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When President Franklin Roosevelt called upon the Filipinos to join the U.S. military in fighting the invading Japanese Imperial forces, 260,000 men signed up in the Philippines.
They were joined by thousands more Filipinos who signed up in the United States to form the 1st and 2nd Filipino Regiments, both of which saw action in the Pacific before joining in the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese.
“Filipino World War II veterans served their country with distinct honor and uncommon valor and we owe them a profound debt of gratitude,” said Major General (Retired) Antonio Taguba, Chair of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project. Taguba lobbied in behalf of the Filipino veterans to fulfill the promises of U.S. citizenship and military benefits made to them by Roosevelt. Last week, he was interviewed on MSNBC about the bill. See video, below.
“Filipino World War II veterans served and sacrificed alongside American forces and played an important role in the Allied victory,” said Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). “I have spent my career fighting to ensure they receive the recognition and benefits they deserve. While we can never fully repay the debt we owe these brave soldiers, Congress can pay tribute to their courage by awarding them with the Congressional Gold Medal. Granting Filipino veterans this honor will be yet another step taken in correcting past wrongs and celebrating their heroic actions and the patriotism of their community.”
“Our nation’s Filipino veterans made tremendous sacrifices during World War II and played a big part in our victory. As such, they should be recognized for their service and awarded the Congressional Gold Medal,” said Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). “Nevada is home to ‘The Mighty Five’ Filipino veterans – a group of heroes I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the years. While some are no longer with us, I am proud this legislation will finally ensure they receive proper recognition for their valiant acts of military service.”
Of the 66 nationalities that fought on the side of the Allies during WWII, only the Filipinos were denied those benefits.He estimates that there are 16,000 surviving veterans, whose ranks diminish every day.
Senator Hirono has successfully led the fight to reunite these veterans who were granted U.S. citizenship in the 1990s in recognition of their service, with their children who were not, and successfully prevented the Department of Veterans Affairs from taking funds from the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund to pay for other projects.
“I am proud that with the Senate’s unanimous passage of the Filipino World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act, the veterans are significantly closer on their life long goal of national recognition of sacrifice and selfless service during World War II from the U.S. Congress,” said Taguba. “They have waited 75 years for this proud and historic milestone in American history.”