WASHINGTON DC — “The congressional gold medal is one of our oldest traditions here in the Capitol. It is the highest civilian honor that this body can bestow, today, pursuant to S-1555 — we award this medal to Filipino veterans of World War II,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan.
It was a recognition 75 years in the making, and only about 18,000 of the quarter million Filipino World War II veterans are alive to see this historic day.
House Speaker Paul Ryan presented this prestigious congressional gold medal award to the Filipino World War II manongs. Among them is 100-year-old Celestino Almeda.
Almeda is among those who enlisted under president Franklin Roosevelt, who created the US Armed Forces in the far east.
Filipinos who enlisted were offered full veterans benefits.
“Filipino fought shoulder to shoulder with American Armed forces. Our unity are forged and shared sacrifice and common purpose,” said Nancy Pelosi. “But when the war ended — president Harry Truman rescinded their benefits.”
“I have waited along, for this moment to come. After the war thousands of us felt underappreciated and unrecognized, for fighting for our country,” said Almeda.
“We honor them today, it’s a mark of a confident and exceptional nation to look back on its history and say that we made a grievous error but we recognize it, and pledge to never let it happen again,” said Chuck Schumer.
Filipino-Americans in leadership positions came to show their support to our manongs.
“We’re recognizing a huge contribution during WWII, we could not have won the war without the contributions of Filipino veterans, and we need to make sure that that’s honored, we haven’t always done that, so that its important today’s ceremony take place,” said Rep. Bobby Scott.
“Let’s remember this is October, Filipino-American history month, the messages here in the US and in the Philippines, let’s celebrate this moment. We haven’t done anything for our veterans, today will be a glorious day for them,” said Antonio Taguba, retired Army major general. “God bless.”
This special day got even more special with more good news for Almeda.
“We’ve now authorized the department of Veteran Affairs to pay Mr. Celestino Almeda $15,000 dollars, in acknowledgement for his service,” US Veteran Affairs’ Mr. David Shulkin.”He’s a hundred years old and we just couldn’t let him wait any longer. We owed him to correct the situation, thanking him for his service and acknowledging it is the right thing to do.”
Filipino WWII veteran advocates believe this could be a precedent for more manongs to get the recognition they deserved.