Filipino WWII vets hope for Congressional Gold Medal

By Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Oct. 20, 2014

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Filipino American retired Major General of the U.S. Army Antonio Taguba is continuing to advocate for Filipino World War II veterans through the Filipino Veterans Recognition Education Project.

The on-going effort of the project is to award the veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal for services rendered.

Other minority groups have already received their Congressional Gold Medals, including the Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Code Talkers.

“I would suggest we are probably the last,” said Taguba. “The Filipino veterans of World War II is the last cohort who has yet to receive their congressional gold medal. So we are going to petition Congress. This is going to be a national campaign to bestow upon them the Congressional Gold Medal.”

The project is to initiate conclusive academic research on the Filipino America soldier’s experience during WWII, so this information can be used for national awareness and public education.

“Also develop a digitized education project for this project as well, so we have a continuity in educating our generation today and future generations of tomorrow,” continued Taguba. “And this may take some time.”

Some Fil-Am WWII veterans in San Francisco are happy to receive the news that after 69 years, their services will be recognized.

“I really deserve that medal and I am happy for all the sacrifices that I have undergone,” said Simplicio Yoma, WWII Army veteran. “And now I will receive something which is very important for my life.”

While the Congressional Gold Medal is a prestigious honor to receive, the veterans are still waiting for their pensions that were promised to them, but denied by Congress in 1946.

“They have been waiting for a long time,” said Elisha Reyes, the wife of a WWII veteran. “And sometimes they feel already they lost hope, and many have passed away.”

“I was expecting that, since the Americans told us they were going to give us our own pensions,” said Marino Reyes, a WWII guerilla veteran. “And until now, we don’t have our own pensions.”

“I hope we could live longer so we could reach a time that our sacrifices could be compensated,” said Yoma.

The next phase for the project includes a plan for a national exhibition in the U.S. and Philippines of the Congressional Gold Medal co-sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, sponsors, and advocates.

You can contact Rommel Conclara at rommel_conclara@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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