By Shirley Lew, AsAmNews Staff Writer
It’s a great reason to celebrate as many of us are thankful that the President signed the Congressional Gold Medal Act for Chinese American WWII Veterans into law before the shutdown. Whew!
On Tuesday, The White House of Initiative for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders held a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony at the US Department of Veterans Affairs to celebrate the passage of this bill and to recognize the advocacy efforts of volunteers. Invited guests included veterans, civilian advocates like myself, dignitaries and World War II veterans.
The event began with opening remarks from five Chinese American WWII veterans, James L. Eng of Texas; Harry Jung of New Jersey; Henry (Hank) Lee of California; Robert M. Lee, and Elsie C.Y. Seetoo of Washington, DC. Elsie just celebrated her 100thbirthday last week. Each of them spoke of their proud service with no regrets and their life after the military.
The Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project, is a project of CACA, the Chinese American Citizens Alliance. The project is still accepting registration of veterans to be entered into the database, according to Samantha Cheng, the Project Director. You can register the veterans here.
Cheng is a passionate advocate of Asian Americans and the visionary of this monumental movement to recognize Chinese American WW II veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal. The veterans’ information that is collected and vetted is being entered into a first of its kind database of Chinese American WWII veterans. It will be used for educational and research purposes.
This project is a nod to Chinese American representation and the veterans’ contributions in the military. Even the pins I sold to fundraise sparked two separate conversations during a group hike I attended just this month. The pins say, “I Support Chinese American WWII Veterans HR2358 S1050.” HR2358 and S1050 are the respective names of the bills in The House of Representatives and the Senate. My pin was on my backpack during the hike. Now, that’s two more people learning about our history.
When I began volunteering for the local American Legion in Chinatown, all the veterans I met never spoke a word of regret. They were proud of their service and conveyed sincere patriotism to the US even though some experienced racism during their military service. After hearing their stories, I have no doubt that these veterans have served just as dutifully as any other person.
Our Chinese American history needs to be told, it needs to be shared and the work of all the volunteer advocates is certainly to be praised. We must claim our place in history, to be represented and that we want to be included in every way we can.
For clarification, the name of the event should have been called the “Chinese American World War II Celebration” and not a ‘ceremony.’ The name caused some public confusion. There was no gold medal to be unveiled as it has not been designed and minted yet. The official Congressional Gold Medal ceremony with the unveiling of the gold medal is tentatively scheduled for October.
I am proud to have played a role with the many advocates in the passage of the Congressional Gold Medal Act for Chinese American WWII veterans and I look forward to that well deserved ceremony for our veterans in October.
Former Congressman Ed Royce, who introduced the bill to The House, also spoke to the guests and was well received. Davace Chin, National President of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance (CACA) and Past President, Ed Gor also had remarks for the guests.
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