An honor from a grateful nation that came too late for this Chinese American vet

It took two years for him to receive the medal.
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 6:02 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The pandemic put a lot of things on hold, including the recognition of Chinese American veterans and their service in World War II.

On Wednesday, one of those veterans was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award issued by Congress.

Gilbert Hong Hin Hee served as a combat infantryman.

His original award ceremony was scheduled for 2020, but was canceled because of the pandemic.

He died that year, the day after he was supposed to receive the honor.

At the ceremony Wednesday at the Kahala Nui senior living facility, his family gathered in person and remotely to honor the hero they knew so well.

“He is proud watching from heaven,” said his wife, Ethel Hee, as she received her husband’s medals.

Hee was in combat during World War II as part of the 357th Infantry Regiment.

“Why this was so late in coming?” asked retired U.S. Major General Robert Lee during his speech.

“That’s how it was back then. Chinese Americans, most Asian Americans, weren’t nominated for combat. And so upon our review of their records and the one-page history of his service in the Army.”

Lee is one of the people working to recognize minority veterans and the sacrifice they gave. He works with the Chinese American World War II Recognition Project.

They were trying to give the award to Gilbert, but he was in dialysis treatment,” Ethel Hee said.

“And he died the Friday night and they were supposed to deliver the medals to him on Saturday morning. So we missed that. And I’m sure he’s watching and he’s very proud of today.”

Hee said her husband didn’t say much about his time in the war, but that he was excited to know he would receive his medals. He also got the Bronze Star for his time in combat.

The rest of his family joined in on the ceremony via Zoom.

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