By Ed Diokno
Views From the Edge
Filipino veterans of World War II will finally receive the recognition they were denied for so long. The Congressional Gold Medal will be presented to the elderly soldiers sometime in October or November in a formal ceremony in Washington, D.C.
“We secured the Congressional Gold Medal to honor our veterans and demonstrate our deepest gratitude for their supreme sacrifice,” said Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba (Ret). chair of Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, which led the effort to pass the resolution in Congress.
There’s a catch though, Congress authorized the payment for only one gold medal. If you know someone who you think deserves a bronze replica of the medal, it will cost. FilVetREP is sponsoring a fundraising drive to help defray the costs for the replicas. Click here if you, your business or your organization want to donate.
Plans are underway for Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan to present the gold medal honoring Filipino World War II veterans, whose service and sacrifice have been finally recognized by the U.S. with the passage last year of the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015, or Public Law 114-265. The presentation has not been scheduled, but could be held as early as October or November of this year.
The Congressional Gold Medal (CGM) is one of the highest civilian awards bestowed by the United States for persons or groups who have performed an achievement that have an impact on American history and culture.
“We will ensure that our national celebration of this historic achievement is one that treats our veterans with the utmost dignity and respect,” said Taguba. “We are, therefore, calling on all our supporters to make this important event happen. It’s for our veterans and they deserve to have a memorable event.”
At the award ceremony, slated to be held on Capitol Hill, surviving Filipino and American veterans or their next-of-kin will receive bronze replicas of the CGM and a framed copy of Public Law 114-265. Expected to attend are Congressional sponsors, Philippine Government officials, Presidential Cabinet members, high ranking general officers from the US Army, US Marine Corps, US Navy, US Air Force, US Coast Guard, veterans advocates, community leaders and supporters and other dignitaries.
Taguba also notes that not all recipients of the medal may be able to come to Washington due to their age and physical condition. Regional award ceremonies are being considered in the West Coast, Midwest and the South to accommodate veterans who are not able to travel to Washington.
There are also plans for Filipino veterans residing in the Philippines to receive their bronze replicas in Manila. It is anticipated that this will be handled by the Philippine Veterans Administration Office (PVAO) and Philippine Office of National Defense.
Bronze replicas will be awarded only to surviving veterans or their next-of-kin whose eligibility for CGM has been vetted and whose names are included in FilVetREP’s national veterans registry.
“It is essential that veterans and their families register as soon as possible to make sure they are included in the award ceremony,” Taguba adds.
Applications and instructions for submission may be downloaded from FilVetREP’s website, www.filvetrep.org. Each of the FILVETREP regional directors are responsible for contacting the veterans and families to help them register.
Bronze replicas are not funded by the U.S. government, but rather by donations from the public. Donations to support FilVetREP’s CGM activities are accepted through the FilVetREP website.
“This American story of Filipino soldiers fighting under the U.S. flag in Bataan, Corregidor and other places, and helping liberate a U.S. sovereign territory only to be denied the benefits promised them, must be told widely and preserved for posterity for generations to come,” Taguba said.
“It is a story we all should be proud of.”
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