Filipino WWII veterans in Hawaii receive U.S. Congressional Gold Medal
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A ceremony at the Filipino Community Center today honored a special group who fought for the country, but had to wait 76 years to be recognized.
The names of 11 Filipino World War 2 veterans -- read and recognized -- as their families accepted the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal on their behalf.
The medal is one of America’s highest honors and remembers the sacrifice of more than 260,000 Filipino soldiers who fought for the United States from 1941 to 1946.
None of the 11 awardees lived long enough to see this day -- a thank you from the government they served when the Philippines was a U.S. colony.
The children of Sgt. First Class Felix Deveraturda -- who served in the Army of the United States Philippine Scouts 57th infantry, survived the Bataan Death March and was a prisoner of war -- said the award is a great honor for their dad.
“Our dad never talked about this. And the only way we found about it was from my mom,” said Felix Jr.
“Very little know what the Philippines did in the war. And this is their recognition after all these years,” said son Jim.
“It’s an honor that we had this bestowed upon him and the rest of the veterans also brings us closure, as far as recognition to their legacy,” said son Rolando.
“We hope this will be an ongoing celebration and ongoing honor to all the World War Two veterans that are still out there, and some are alive and very old,” said daughter Erlinda. ”Some of them are dying to this day, because they’re not being recognized as an American citizen as promised.”
The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project has organized nearly 100 ceremonies like these across the country since 2017, conferring about 3,000 medals so far.
Fewer than 10,000 Filipino veterans from the Greatest Generation are still alive.
Hawaii resident Oscar Bangui is one of them.
“Finally, we were recognized by the American government,” said Oscar Bangui, president of the World War 2 Filipino American Veterans Hawaii chapter. “All our companion are dead already. And I am only the one who is standing now.”
Retired Major General Antonio Taguba lobbied for the medals -- he estimates 10 to 15 Filipino WWII vets die each day.
Filipino veterans and their advocates are still fighting for benefits they’re entitled to, including citizenship and compensation -- and to correct an injustice.
“We want a national apology from the President of the United States, we want them to include the women on the roster,” General Taguba said. “We want them to appropriate funds to build a memorial and make this part of American history.”
The project is also working with schools so educators can share the stories of Filipino-American war heroes.
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