Filipino World War II veterans and surviving family members are being urged to register so they can receive long-overdue recognition of their service during the War in the Pacific.
At a news conference at AARP Hawaii, retired Maj. Gen. Tony Taguba, the chairman of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, said Filipino, Filipino-American, and American veterans and surviving family members who served in the Pacific during World War II should go to FilVetRep.org and fill out an application with supporting documentation so the organization can verify their service.
Taguba said the group believes there were about 10,000 surviving Filipino World War II veterans and many more surviving family members, who qualify for the medal. But it’s hard to get a more exact count, because many have not registered.
The organization has seen an increase in registrations since it was announced that the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor that Congress can present to individual or group, will be awarded to the Filipino veterans of World War II at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 25th. The Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, will formally present the Congressional Gold Medal to the veterans.
They are the last ethnic group of World War II service members to be recognized with the medal.
The veterans and their family members will receive a bronze replica of the medal and a parchment copy of Public Law 114-0265, the law sponsored by Hawaii U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, that authorized the medal for the veterans.
FilVetRep is also raising money to pay for the bronze replica medals so that the veterans do not have to pay for the medal themselves.
“They have paid for recognition many times over,” Taguba said. “It’s our obligation that we present it to them.”
When veterans and family members register online, they can also apply to be on the wait-list to attend the Washington, D.C. ceremony and sign up to go to the dinner after the ceremony. Donations are also accepted on the website.
A dinner is being planned in Hawaii for next year to present the medal to veterans and survivors who couldn’t make it to Washington, D.C.
Among the veterans at today’s news conference was a woman – Salome Calderon — who served in military intelligence in the Philippines during World War II.
Calderon said she collected and organized information on Japanese positions and installations in the Philippines so that American bombers could take them out.
Taguba said there are many stories of veterans like Calderon that are not widely known. Part of FilVetRep’s mission is to make sure the stories of Filipino veterans are told.
Domingo Los Banos, another Hawaii World War II Filipino veteran, said he lives in a care home now and the Filipino nurses who take care of him don’t know the history of the Filipinos who fought in the war and made it possible for them to be here.
The effort to recognize the World War II Filipino veterans will continue long after the Congressional Gold Medal is presented, Taguba said. There are plans to collect the stories of the veterans and for an expanded educational website. The mission will continue, he said, so that the next generation will know and remember what the veterans did for them.