President Obama expected to sign Congressional Gold Medal bill into law
The House of Representatives unanimously approved on November 30 the Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015, a measure passed five months earlier by the Senate. This prestigious civilian award grants recognition to the 260,000 Filipino and American soldiers who served in the United States Army Forces of the Far East (USAFFE).
President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law before he steps down in January.
The bill was introduced 17 months ago in the House and Senate, according to the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP), which spearheaded the nationwide campaign.
The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) acknowledged the leadership of FilVetREP Chairman Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba and the diligent efforts by several individuals and organizations. NaFFAA Chair Brendan Flores also conveyed the community’s gratitude to Sen. Mazie Hirono and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard for introducing the measure; to Sen. Dean Heller and Sen. Harry Reid, for championing it in the Senate; and to Rep. Joe Heck, Rep. Mike Honda and Rep. Judy Chu, who heads the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC).
For more than a year and a half, NaFFAA’s members and affiliates, including many young people, contacted their representatives through emails, letters, petitions, phone calls, personal visits and tweets. Regional coordinators held regular conference calls to ensure that congressional engagement was moving forward. Regional conferences included workshops and plenary sessions on the veterans issue. And the last National Empowerment Conference highlighted the work of FilVetREP on the Congressional Gold Medal.
“Now that the CGM measure passed Congress, we will now focus our attention to raising funds for the 20,000 bronze replicas that will be awarded to deserving veterans,” said Gloria Caoile, NaFFAA National Vice Chair Emeritus and FilVetREP Fundraising Director. “We don’t want them to carry the burden of paying for their own award. It is our mission now as a community to provide the resources needed, and I know we can do it.”
“I encourage all NaFFAA members to work just as hard in raising funds,” Flores said. “We can start during the holiday season in a spirit of giving. Let us move forward with a sense of pride and through our contributions keep the story of our Filipino World War veterans alive.”
Sen. Mazie Hirono, who sponsored the bill, said the veterans were instrumental to an Allied victory in the Pacific theater, but their fight didn’t end with the war. She said, “For decades, they have continued to fight for the benefits they have earned and to be reunited with their families in the United States.”
“For over 60 years now, our community has been fighting to obtain formal recognition for the efforts of Filipino veterans during this conflict. Today’s vote is a result of a years-long bipartisan advocacy effort by the Filipino American community and our allies and friends,” said Aries Dela Cruz, president of Filipino American Democratic Club of New York (FADCNY) in a statement thanking Gabbard and Hirono for their sponsorship of the bill.
“This is a proud and joyous moment — that our Filipino World War II veterans will now be properly given a long-overdue recognition for their bravery and service, not only to the benefit of both nations of the United States and the Philippines, but all people who value liberty and democracy,” said Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro. “We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude for giving the ultimate sacrifice that we can never repay.”