Filipino WWII vets finally getting benefits, still await one last honor

PEARL HARBOR (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than 250,000 Filipinos fought alongside Americans in World War II. On Friday evening, they were honored in a special sunset ceremony aboard the USS Missouri at Pearl Harbor.

Only some 18,000 are still alive -- a number that gets smaller with each passing day.

"Of the 300 local boys that were attached to the regiment, there's only -- my guys over there -- one, two, three -- five of us left," said Domingo Los Banos. He's 91 and the son of Filipino immigrants.

Other Filipino soldiers were promised U.S. citizenship and other benefits, but that promise was broken a year after the war ended.

Just last year, a new parole program allowed families of Filipino veterans to finally come to the U.S. while waiting for their immigration visas to be approved. That program could now be in jeopardy.

"My hope is that the new president doesn't totally do away with the parole program because that means that our Filipino World War II veterans are going to have to wait even longer to reunite with their children in the Philippines, and that should not be happening," said Sen. Mazie Hirono. She and other lawmakers are pushing a bill that would honor the Filipino veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal -- the same medial award to Japanese-American soldiers.

"This bill passed unanimously in the Senate," said Hirono. "It has been sitting in the House for four months."

The medal is an honor that Hirono and others say is long overdue, and should be granted before it's too late.

"I get teary-eyed today knowing that our generation's going to be gone," said Los Banos.

"We gotta gather together, be strong, and fight together, be sure the things they promised us is done."

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