WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on July 13 passed a bill authored by Sen. Mazie Hirono to award Filipino veterans who fought for the United States the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award that Congress can bestow.
A broad, bipartisan coalition of 71 senators co-sponsored the legislation, which recognizes Filipino soldiers who fought alongside Americans during World War II.
“Today, the Senate provided recognition to Filipino World War II veterans for their brave and courageous service to the United States,” said Hirono. “These veterans were instrumental to an Allied victory in the Pacific theater, but their fight didn’t end with the war. For decades, they have continued to fight for the benefits they have earned and to be reunited with their families in the United States. I thank my Senate colleagues for joining me in recognizing these veterans’ service and sacrifice with the Congressional Gold Medal, one of our nation’s highest civilian honors.”
“Filipino World War II veterans served and sacrificed alongside American forces and played an important role in the Allied victory,” said Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “I have spent my career fighting to ensure they receive the recognition and benefits they deserve. While we can never fully repay the debt we owe these brave soldiers, Congress can pay tribute to their courage by awarding them with the Congressional Gold Medal. Granting Filipino veterans this honor will be yet another step taken in correcting past wrongs and celebrating their heroic actions and the patriotism of their community.”
“Our nation’s Filipino veterans made tremendous sacrifices during World War II and played a big part in our victory. As such, they should be recognized for their service and awarded the Congressional Gold Medal,” said Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.). “Nevada is home to ‘The Mighty Five’ Filipino veterans – a group of heroes I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the years. While some are no longer with us, I am proud this legislation will finally ensure they receive proper recognition for their valiant acts of military service.”
“Filipino World War II veterans served their country with distinct honor and uncommon valor and we owe them a profound debt of gratitude,” said Maj. Gen. (retired) Antonio Taguba, chair of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project. “I am proud that with the Senate’s unanimous passage of the Filipino World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act, the veterans are significantly closer on their lifelong goal of national recognition of sacrifice and selfless service during World War II from the U.S. Congress.
“They have waited 75 years for this proud and historic milestone in American history. We deeply appreciate Sen. Hirono’s steadfast leadership and dedication to the thousands of Filipino World War II veterans and their families who made this day possible. The veterans will surely be proud.”
“We are grateful to Sen. Hirono for her work and dedication in gaining the overwhelming support needed to pass this important legislation out of the U.S. Senate,” said Ben Acohido, service officer, VFW Post 1572 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army, Veterans of Foreign Wars-Hawaii Chapter. “The Congressional Gold Medal will preserve the history of service and sacrifice by these loyal Filipino World War II veterans. They were the first line of defense in the Pacific, providing valuable time for the American military to marshal its forces when the outcome of the war was still in question. We are now hopeful for the bill’s passage in the U.S. House.”
S.1555, the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015, recognizes over 260,000 Filipino and Filipino American soldiers who responded to President Franklin Roosevelt’s call-to-duty and fought under the American flag. Last August, Hirono held an informational briefing in Hawaii for the veterans and their families to learn more about this bill.
Hirono has also successfully led the fight to reunite these veterans, who were granted U.S. citizenship in the 1990s in recognition of their service, with their children who were not, and successfully prevented the Department of Veterans Affairs from taking funds from the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund to pay for other projects.
S. 1555 must now be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in order to be sent to President Obama for his signature.