Fil-Am WWII vets honored in LA congressional medal ceremony

by Albert Bataclan, ABS-CBN News
LOS ANGELES — Though some are frail in body — all 24 of the Filipino awardees, 8 of whom are some of the last living veterans of WWII, beamed with pride as they finally received the recognition they waited 75 years for: the congressional gold medal for their service in the United States Armed Forces of the Far East.
Retired major general Antonio Taguba, chairman of FilVetRep, one the highest ranking Filipino American military officials —and one of the key players, who fought for the veterans to receive the honor, handed the medals to the awardees and their survivors.
He said although the wait was long, it still left a huge impact in our history.
 “It’s never too late. There is never a statute of limitation that says recognition, honor and dignity stops right there, it perpetuates itself.”
The Congressional Gold Medal is an award bestowed by the U.S. Congress and is one of the highest civilian awards in the United States.
On December 14, 2016, President Barack Obama signed the Filipino Veterans of WWII Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015 into law—essentially nullifying The Rescission Act of 1946, signed by then-President Harry Truman (which retroactively annulled recognition benefits that would have been payable to Filipino troops for their military service under the United States, during the time that the Philippines was a U.S. territory and Filipinos were U.S. nationals).
Art Garcia, Director of the LA-based organization Justice for Filipino American Veterans said this was just the beginning of the recognitions for the Filipinos vets, and added that advocates are still actively looking for WW2 veterans who are eligible to receive the award.
“We are calling on all the veterans, their survivors or next of kin, they can apply and avail of the medal for the second awarding and we will announce the date before the end of the year”
Active military member and also a veteran private Mark Chiong, was in attendance, and said honoring the veterans is important, especially for young Filipino American service men and women.
“When I grow old, I wanna share my experiences to my little ones, telling them that freedom is not easy,” said Chiong.
But Franco Arcebal, one the evening’s medal recipients said that although he is proud to have received the recognition, he seeks more from the US government to feel full vindication.
“ Pakay pa namin na magkaroon kami ng equal benefits as the American service man.
 Stepping stone ito, para gamitin namin na since you recognize our service, you also pay our benefits.”
For more information and eligibility requirements for the next round of awards, visit filvetrep.org.
It might have taken 75 years for our veterans to receive the recognition they truly deserve, but tonight, they finally join the ranks of General Douglas MacArthur, Winston Churchill, and even President Harry Truman.
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