Filipino veterans recognized for bravery and service with Congressional gold medals

WASHINGTON DC — This century-year-old Filipino waited three-quarters of his life for this day: a congressional gold medal award, in recognition of his service and sacrifice as a WWII veteran in the US military.

“After 75 years, ngayon lang kami nakilala, ngayon lang kami kinilalang beterano nuong nakaraang giyera,” said Celestino Almeda. “Ang America pala ay hindi nakakalimot, napagisip isip nila na meron silang pagkukulang… binabawi nila ang kanilang pagkukulang sa pagkilala ng serbisyo naming.”

Almeda is among the more than 250,000 Filipinos who signed up and fought side by side with American forces during the second World War.

President Franklin Roosevelt promised full veterans benefits to Filipinos who enlisted in the US Military.

“Most of the Filipinos who answered President Roosevelt’s call to duty had no formal training,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. “Many had not previously picked up a weapon, but they risked their lives fighting under the stars and stripes…”

“They fought as American nationals, they fought under the American flag, under the direction of our military leaders, they fought with gallantry, with courage, under the most difficult conditions,” said Rep. Ed Royce.

But uncle sam failed the veteranss. President Harry Truman rescinded their benefits when the war ended in 1946.

In a way, the veterans, also known as manongs, went back to battle, this time fighting for full recognition as US veterans with full veteran benefits.

Almeda is among those who chained themselves to the White House to shine a spotlight on the injustice to Filipino veterans.

“We were arrested, fingerprinted, at the police station and finally released. Wow ang tatay mo pala aktibista, that may be one of the reason why this thing is happening now.”

After the congressional gold medal was presented at the Capitol on Wednesday morning, more than 500 veterans or their next of kin received their gold medals at a gala held at the Ritz Carlton in Maryland.

But their struggle for full recognition as US veterans is not over just yet.

Veteran advocate Jon Melegrito says the next campaign is to launch a legislative initiative to have Congress reverse the 1946 Recession Act that stripped these Filipinos of their full veterans rights and benefits.

“They passed the Rescission Act in 1946, so it takes the same Congress to basically undo what they did and it doesn’t involve money, it doesn’t involve reparation,” he said. “It’s really an act of Congress saying we made a mistake, now we want to undo that mistake, so we restore justice.”

Awardees were serenaded by concert king Martin Nievera.

“They’ve been waiting for that one pat on the back, they go it tonight, so everyone watching or hearing about this news they should not take it lightly,” Nievera said. “Our freedom, our being able to live the way we live is because of the veterans that we honor tonight.”

Melegrito says after the veterans received bipartisan support for the Congressional gold medal act.

He is hoping for bipartisan support from Congress to repeal the Rescission Act.

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  • Mario
    27 October 2017 at 1:24 am - Reply

    Congratulations to All Fil-American Veterans, why only now under TRUMP Administration. What happened for the past 8 years, Obama does not want to recognized you with Congressional Gold Medal… Exactly one year today, the NYTimes gave their Presidential race prediction, HC-93%,Trump-7%, thanks God the mainstream media were totally wrong..