The families of 11 Filipino World War II veterans were awarded with one of America’s highest honors to recognize the soldiers who fought for the nation more than 76 years ago.
The names of 11 Filipino World War II veterans were read and recognized at a ceremony held at the Filipino Community Center in Honolulu on Monday.
While none of the 11 veterans lived long enough to see themselves recognized by the American government, family members received the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal on their behalf.
“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,” Erlinda, the daughter of Sgt. First Class Felix Deveraturda, told Hawaii News Now. “Some of them are dying to this day, because they’re not being recognized as an American citizen as promised.”
Deveraturda reportedly served in the Army of the United States Philippine Scouts 57th infantry. He survived the Bataan Death March and was a prisoner of war.
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The medal is said to honor the sacrifice of more than 260,000 Filipino soldiers who fought for America from 1941 to 1946 when the Philippines was a U.S. colony.
The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project has conferred about 3,000 medals so far since 2017. They are also working with schools to share the stories of Filipino American war heroes.
Today, there are fewer than 10,000 Filipino World War II veterans alive. Retired Major General Antonio Taguba estimates 10 to 15 Filipino vets die each day.
Oscar Bangui, the president of the World War II Filipino American Veterans Hawaii chapter, is one of the few Filipino veterans still alive to this day.
“Finally, we were recognized by the American government,” Bangui said. “All our companions are dead already. And I am only the one who is standing now.”
Filipino advocates continue to fight for the benefits the veterans are entitled to, including compensation and citizenship.
“We want a national apology from the President of the United States, we want them to include the women on the roster, we want them to appropriate about funds to build a memorial and make this part of American history,” Taguba said.