Friday, December 16, 2016

Obama signs bill; Filipino WWII veterans awarded Congressional Gold Medal

Filipino WWII veterans have been fighting for recognition and benefits from the U.S. government for decades.

By Louis Chan
ASAM NEWS


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA  signed a bill Dec. 14 into law that awards the Congressional Gold Medal to Filipino and Filipino/American World War II war veterans.

The bill sponsored by Rep Tulsi Gabbard and Senator Mazie Hirono, both Democrats from Hawaii, honors the contributions of 260,000 Filipino veterans. Only 18,000 of them remain alive, according to Gabbard.

“These loyal and courageous soldiers, suffered, fought, with many giving up their lives alongside their American counterparts throughout the war,” said Gabbard.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the nation’s highest civilian honor from Congress.

“After enduring 75 years of injustice and humiliation, our Filipino World War II veterans regained their honor and dignity when Congress passed the Congressional Gold Medal Award — a historic bill President Obama signed into law today,” said retired Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba.

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The bill, in part, is in response to past acts by the U.S. which denied promised U.S. benefits to these veterans. Although some of those veterans have in recent years recovered those benefits, others continue the struggle.

Both Gabbard and Hirono have bills pending to rectify that.

“The Filipino veterans of World War II overcame many challenges in their fight for compensation, family reunification, and verification of wartime service,” said Hirono.

President Barack Obama has signed a measure into law that honors Filipino and Filipino-American World War II veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal.

“By signing our bill into law, President Obama recognized these veterans’ courage and perseverance, both during the war and in the decades of battles for benefits that followed,” said U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono in a news release.

“This day is only possible thanks to the commitment of veterans, families and advocates in Hawaii and across the country who worked tirelessly to see this effort through Congress. While this recognition is long-overdue, the Congressional Gold Medal is a fitting tribute to the sacrifice that these veterans made for our country,” she said.

The House and Senate passed their respective bills unanimously. The Senate version was sponsored by Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Dean Heller (R-NV), Harry Reid (D-NV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Brian Schatz (D-HI). 


The House version (H.R.2737) was sponsored by Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Joseph Heck (R-NV), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Mark Takai (D-HI), and Jackie Speier (D-CA). Both bills were introduced on 11 June 2015.

In the news release, retired Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who heads the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, said, “After enduring 75 years of injustice and humiliation, our Filipino World War II veterans regained their honor and dignity when Congress passed the Congressional Gold Medal Award — a historic bill President Obama signed into law today.

“With deep gratitude, our nation has now come to fully recognize the service and sacrifice of our brave heroes who fought valiantly under the American flag,” he added.
(Views From the Edge contributed to this report.)