Good night, Mr. Almeda, 104

Celestino Almeda as a young USAFFE officer.
 

Celestino Gonzales Almeda passed away peacefully on March 27 surrounded by his family in Rockville, Maryland. He was 104.

He was the first recipient of the Filipino WWII Veterans’ U.S. Congressional Gold Medal presented by the Speaker of the House of Representatives in a historic ceremony in October 2017 under the Capitol dome.

“It was my honor to be his constant companion when tirelessly lobbying in the Congress and in the White House for his comrades’ official U.S. military recognition and veterans equity benefits bills,” said Eric Lachica, a long-time advocate for Filipino veterans and a friend of Almeda.

His son Roberto Almeda announced: “I was in tears when I heard the good news that my father’s wish to be buried in a national cemetery will be fulfilled. The entire Almeda family will be forever grateful.”

He will be interred at Quantico National Cemetery on 18424 Joplin Rd, Triangle, VA. Quantico is a national cemetery in Virginia for veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and service members. It is under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Almeda, 104 years old, born on June 8, 1917 in the Philippines was a Filipino American WWII veteran who fought the Japanese during their occupation of the Philippines in 1941. He retired as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Recognized guerrilla forces of the U.S. Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) commanded by General Douglas MacArthur.

‘The embodiment of patriotism and duty to country.’
Speaker Nancy Pelosi gives Almeda a hug after he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2017. Getty Images

His story began in 1936, according to Vantage Point blog, “when the President of the Philippines Manuel Quezon coordinated with U.S. General Douglas MacArthur to create a Philippine Army. Being 18 years old, Almeda was conscripted. He managed to obtain an exemption from training camp by enrolling in a two-year graduate study and teacher’s curriculum in the arts and training course, alongside a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program. After he completed the program, he worked as a teacher in Manila at Arellano High School. He taught in Manila until the Japanese invasion.

“In 1990, Almeda applied for U.S. naturalization using his military records as supporting documents. The Immigration Service tried to verify his service through the National Personnel Records Center but could not find his name. This forced Almeda to hire an immigration lawyer and take his case to immigration court. He was finally sworn in as an American in 1996.” He has since become the face of Filipino veterans who fought the U.S. government for long overdue benefits attending almost every rally and congressional hearings. He has photographs with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Quoting General Antonio Taguba, “He is the embodiment of patriotism and duty to country. He survived the battles in WWII. He and his fellow veterans want to be remembered simply for the honor and privilege to serve for their duty to country.”

Almeda lived with his family in Gaithersburg, MD and is survived by his daughter, Evelyn Campbell, and his sons, Roberto Almeda and Reynaldo Almeda, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

His favorite quote is from General Douglas MacArthur, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away”.

A visitation was held at DeVol Funeral Home on 10 East Deer Park Drive, Gaithersburg, MD on March 30.    

© The FilAm 2022



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