FORT SHAFTER, HI — The oldest living Filipino WWII veteran in Oahu received the congressional gold medal, while also celebrating his 100th birthday.
And on this special day, private first-class Francisco Benigno was surrounded by his family, friends, the military community and elected officials.
“I’m so glad that we get to celebrate him while he’s here and especially making it to 100 years old. It’s, it’s an, it’s an amazing day for us,” said his grandchild Jamie Quiocho.
Francisco P. Benigno was called to duty on October 28, 1941 and became a Prisoner of War, suffering the Death March and taken to the concentration camp for three years before he was released.
Despite what he endured during World War II, Benigno and fellow Filipino veterans have had to fight for the full military benefits they were once promised by the government.
Benigno’s grandchildren said they’re just starting to really realize the sacrifices their grandfather and his comrades have had to make.
“Growing up, I never understood where my grandpa went during the day and I would see him and my grandma marching in parades, but I never understood. I thought they were just waving with the banner, but learning that he was fighting for his rights and for the rights of his comrades,” said granddaughter Indy Losbog.
To honor her grandfather, Losbog applied for him to receive the congressional gold medal at the beginning of 2019. And the moment came for him to receive one of the highest honors given to civilians.
Years of lobbying by Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono have led to the passage of the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act in December 2016.
The Filipino Veterans recognition and education project organization estimates that there are less than 10,000 surviving Filipino veterans of WWII in the U.S. and the Philippines.
Benigno is blessed with a legacy of 10 children, 33 grandchildren, 84 great-grandchildren and 20 great-great-grandchildren.