Filipino veterans receive Congressional Gold Medal

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“I have waited along with my Filipino and American soldiers for this moment to come.”

With these words, World War II veteran Celestino Almeda, 100, received a Congressional Gold Medal honoring the services of Filipino veterans of World War II.

Almeda, who lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland, traveled to Washington D.C. for the October 25 ceremony held at the Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Congress building. He was one of the veterans who chained themselves to the White House fence protesting the U.S. government neglect of Filipino veterans.

On Wednesday, leaders of the U.S. House and Senate presented a Congressional Gold Medal in honor of Filipino veterans of World War II for their service and sacrifice during the war. From July 1941 to December 1946, 260,000 Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers served and fought for the United States and the Philippines to topple Axis powers during World War II. In July of 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called all organized military forces of the Philippines into the service of the United States.

Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi took part in the bipartisan, bicameral ceremony.

“The Congressional Gold Medal is one of our oldest traditions. Today, pursuant to S. 1555, we award this Medal to the Filipino veterans of World War II,” said Ryan.

Veteran Celestino Almeda, 100. ‘I have waited for this moment to come.’

Veteran Celestino Almeda, 100. ‘I have waited for this moment to come.’

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor the United States can bestow. In accordance with Public Law No: 114-265, a single gold medal has been struck to honor the Filipino veterans of World War II in recognition of their dedicated service during the war.

“Presenting the Congressional Gold Medal to our Filipino World War II veterans is a long overdue honor for hundreds of thousands of veterans and their families,” Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii said.

“These loyal and courageous soldiers fought bravely, sacrificed greatly, many even paying the ultimate price alongside our American troops, yet for far too long, their service and sacrifice has gone unrecognized in the U.S.,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “I’m honored and proud that we can finally be here today to right this wrong.”

Asian Americans Advancing Justice President and Executive Director, John Yang, issued the following statement: “We have waited a long time to witness the well-deserved honor of presenting Filipino Veterans of World War II with the Congressional Gold Medal.

“We fought along with stalwart advocates such as Senator Mazie Hirono and bi-partisan supporters in Congress to pass the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act (Public Law 114-265) and award medals collectively to more than 260,000 Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers. It is fitting the ceremony occurs during Filipino American History Month in acknowledgment of the contributions and proud heritage of nearly four million Filipino Americans who call the United States home. As we honor these veterans and their families today, we must remember to keep supporting their right to be reunited with family members through the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program. Congratulations to the Filipino WWII Veterans and those veterans who are no longer with us. This is an honor that is truly deserved and long overdue.”

“It was truly an honor to witness history!” writes NaFFAA Chairman Brendan Flores on Facebook. “75 years in the making!”

© 2017 The FilAm

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