WASHINGTON — Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), and congressional leaders presented the Congressional Gold Medal to Filipino World War II veterans on Oct. 25 at the U.S. Capitol.
The presentation ceremony was the culmination of Hirono and Gabbard’s years-long effort to recognize these veterans with Congress’ highest civilian honor.
“Presenting the Congressional Gold Medal to our Filipino World War II veterans is a long-overdue honor for hundreds of thousands of veterans and their families,” said Hirono. “Last Veterans Day, Filipino World War II veteran Domingo Los Banos urged me to make sure our Congressional Gold Medal bill was passed that year. I hope that today’s ceremony conveyed to Domingo and every other veteran our gratitude for their service during the war and recognition of the hardship they face in receiving the benefits they earned.”
“The United States is forever grateful for the service, bravery, and perseverance of the more than 200,000 Filipino and Filipino American soldiers that served our country during World War II,” said Gabbard. “These loyal and courageous soldiers suffered hardships, fought bravely, and sacrificed greatly, with many giving up their lives alongside their American counterparts throughout the war, yet their service was left unrecognized in the United States for decades.
“Today, these brave soldiers are finally receiving the recognition they earned and deserve, and join the ranks of heroic units like the Tuskegee Airmen and Hawaii’s own 442nd/100th Infantry Battalion as we honor them with the Congressional Gold Medal — our nation’s highest civilian honor.”
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) joined Hirono and Gabbard in presenting the medal.
“Today we pay tribute to the quarter of a million Filipinos who answered an American president’s call to fight for our country in the defining war of the 20th century,” said Schumer. “Those brave men, who bravely took up arms and risked life and limb on behalf of a country that was not yet their own, were heroes. It is a mark of a confident and exceptional nation to look back on its history and say we made a grievous error, but we recognize it and pledge never to let it happen again. I’m especially proud to be an American today as Congress rights a decades-old wrong and bestows the highest civilian honor on the Filipino veterans of the Second World War, enshrining in the history books their courage and sacrifice on behalf of a grateful nation.”
“Today, we recognize the extraordinary heroism and sacrifice of the Filipino veterans of World War II by conferring the highest honor Congress can bestow,” said Pelosi. “Generations of Americans and Filipinos alike have been shaped by their courage, inspired by their service and humbled by their sacrifice. We are inspired not only by their bravery on the battlefield but also by the courage they have shown in fighting for the recognition they have earned but long been denied. We must not rest until the service of every Filipino veteran is recognized and rewarded.”
Hirono and Gabbard’s law, the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act (Public Law 114-265), was signed into law by President Obama and awarded the medal collectively to the over 260,000 Filipino and Filipino American soldiers who responded to President Franklin Roosevelt’s call to duty and fought under the American flag during World War II.
Filipino American History Month
On Oct. 24, Hirono and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) introduced a bicameral resolution recognizing October 2017 as Filipino American History Month. Notably, there is a higher percentage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in Hawaii than in any other state.
“Filipino American History Month is a time to celebrate the many and varied contributions of Filipino Americans to our nation and Hawaii,” said Hanabusa. “From their significant history in the American labor movement, to a commanding presence in the arts, dance and music, to their heroic service defending Americans’ freedom in World War II, Filipino Americans have a proud history in this country and I am honored to recognize their culture and accomplishments.”
“Each Filipino American History Month, we celebrate the contributions of Filipino Americans to Hawaii and our nation,” said Hirono. “It’s fitting that tomorrow, we will present Filipino World War II veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal for their service and the adversity they faced in fighting for the benefits they earned. I thank my colleagues from both sides of the aisle for joining me in recognizing the Filipino American community.”
“As chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I am proud to be an original co-sponsor of the Filipino American History Month resolution introduced by Sen. Mazie Hirono and Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa,” said Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena). “The rich history of the Filipino community in America predates the formation of the United States and can be traced back to the arrival of the first Filipino immigrants to California in 1587. Since then, the Filipino and Filipino American community have made immeasurable contributions to our great nation.
“They are labor leaders, educators, entertainers, business professionals, health care providers, military service members, and World War II veterans. There is no doubt that our country has been enriched by the Filipino American community, and I am so proud to join my colleagues in honoring their contributions. ”
Filipino Americans are the second-largest Asian American group in the country at approximately 4 million people and are one of the fastest-growing immigrant groups in the United States. The Filipino American History Month resolution recognizes the rich history of Filipino Americans in the U.S. and their many economic, cultural, and social contributions to the nation.
Co-sponsors in the House include Reps. Gabbard, Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), Mark Takano (D-Riverside), Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Gregorian Kilili Camacho Sablan (Northern Mariana Islands), and Bobby Scott (D-Va.). Co-sponsors in the Senate include Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).