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.
Hirono and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced companion bills, pushing for the much-deserved recognition of Filipino soldiers.
Gabbard said: “These loyal and courageous soldiers, suffered, fought, with many giving up their lives alongside their American counterparts throughout the war.”
“Though less than 18,000 of our Filipino WWII veterans are still alive today, this recognition is a testament to each and every one of our Filipino WWII veterans who earned and deserve their place amongst our greatest generation,” she said in the release.
Obama signed the bill into law Wednesday before he is scheduled to depart for Honolulu Friday for his last Hawaii holiday vacation as president.
The congressional gold medal is the nation’s highest civilian award by Congress, recognizing more than 260,000 Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers who fought alongside the U.S. in WWII.
They were promised U.S. citizenship and health and pension benefits but Congress revoked that promise in 1946. Over the past decades, Hawaii’s congressional leaders have been pushing to restore benefits for Filipino veterans.
Today, there are fewer than 10 surviving Filipinos of the war in Hawaii, all who are in their 90s.
In the news release, retired Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, a 1968 Leilehua High School graduate 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.