On June 11 in Washington, D.C., the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP) joined members of Congress to announce the introduction of a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Filipino World War II veterans. Participating in the press conference were (from left) Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Chula Vista), Rey Cabacar, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Jesse Baltazar, Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), Celestino Almeda, Mr. Postel (first name not available), and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). (Photo by Jon Melegrito)
WASHINGTON — The U.S House of Representatives voted Nov. 30 to pass S.1555, the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act.
The bill will recognize Filipino veterans who fought for the U.S. during World War II with a Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The Senate passed the bill unanimously over the summer, and it will now be sent to President Obama to be signed into law.
Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus released the following statements:
• Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), CAPAC chair: “I am thrilled that the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation today to grant long overdue recognition to our Filipino World War II veterans … More than 200,000 Filipino soldiers served bravely alongside American forces and played a critical role in ultimately helping the United States to achieve victory in the Pacific. We in CAPAC have made it a top priority to ensure that these Filipino World War II veterans receive the benefits and recognition that they deserve, and the passage of today’s bill is a tremendous victory for our veterans and the broader Filipino American community.
“I want to especially commend Sen. Hirono and Congresswoman Gabbard for their leadership to ensure that we properly honor these heroic veterans, and I urge President Obama to sign this bill into law before the end of the year.”
• Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii): “With unanimous support from the United States Congress, our bill now heads to the president’s desk. Our Filipino World War II veterans have waited decades for this recognition alongside units like the Tuskegee Airmen and Hawaii’s own 442nd/100th Infantry Battalion with the Congressional Gold Medal … With just 18,000 of these Filipino World War II veterans still alive today, we cannot afford to wait any longer. I urge the president to sign this bill into law before the year’s end, and honor our veterans with this long-overdue recognition.”
• Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “For months, we have said that time is running out to recognize Filipino World War II veterans for their brave service. Today’s House passage is the culmination of decades of work by these veterans and their families to recognize their key role in the Allied victory, and their decades-long fight for benefits.”
• Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), CAPAC chair emeritus: “Today, I am deeply moved by the passage of a bill that will award the Congressional Gold Medal to Filipino and Filipino American veterans of World War II. Nearly 250,000 soldiers answered the call of President Roosevelt to secure a victory for the U.S. in the Pacific theater. Their bravery, patriotism, and sacrifice above and beyond in Bataan and other battles helped keep Midway and the Coral Islands in American hands at a crucial time during the war. Now, Congress is finally honoring the surviving Filipino and Filipino American World War II veterans whose spirit and heroism is an example for all of us.”
• Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), CAPAC whip: “Over 200,000 brave Filipino people fought in World War II as members of the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE). Just like any other American who dutifully served their country, the Filipinos who served in the USAFFE endured hardships and sacrificed much while fighting for the ideals our country holds dear. Yet, their service has remained unrecognized since 1946, when the Rescission Acts deemed that these Filipino soldiers did not serve in active duty, and were subsequently denied their full veterans benefits.
“Today we took an important step toward correcting that injustice. The Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015 … is a long overdue recognition of their service and sacrifice. As the acting ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, I have promised to protect and stand up for our veterans, and the Filipino soldiers who served this country are no exception. I look forward to President Obama signing this legislation into law.”
• Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Manhattan Beach): “Today, I applaud the passage of the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act. Not only does this legislation rightfully honor and recognize our Filipino WWII veterans, it highlights the countless contributions of a diverse America. I look forward to President Obama signing it into law and honoring our Filipino veterans with the highest civilian honor.”
• Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.): “Any and everyone who serves our nation deserves to be recognized. For many Filipino and Filipino American veterans, that recognition was never given. For decades these honorable service members were denied the benefits and appreciation they so rightly deserved. The passage of this bill finally honors these brave veterans with the highest civilian medal awarded by Congress.”
• Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.): “Filipino Americans have contributed to American life and culture in countless ways. The invaluable service of Filipino soldiers and guerilla fighters during World War II helped win the war in the Pacific. Our nation is forever indebted to these brave soldiers and it is important that we express our gratitude.”