23 Congressional Gold Medal medals were given out in the San Francisco Bay Area to the families of Filipino World War Two veterans who have since passed. The official awarding ceremony was organized by the Bayanihan Equity Center.
"Whether there's a pandemic or not, we really need to make sure that the services of the Filipino World War Two veterans are remembered and recognized," Luisa Antonio of the Bayanihan Equity Center stressed.
Advocates say the recognition is bittersweet, wishing many of the veterans were still present to enjoy the event. Lieutenant Colonel Don Bautista shared "I remember when we first started in the 90s, there were a lot of veterans. They were here. We were helping them with their immigration issues, as well as family unity. However, because of the years, like they say, soldiers just fade, but they are still recognized in the community as well as their families."
For the 23 families in attendance, many were grandchildren, children, and widows. Brigadier General Steven McLaughlin of the US Army Reserve took time to speak with the families.
"I walked around before the ceremony. I spoke with each of the families and it was very moving hearing each of the stories from each of the family members," McLaughlin said.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award bestowed by the US Congress. It was only after 72 years since the end of the WW2 that Filipino veterans of the war were formally awarded in 2017. Veteran advocates say they are determined to ensure that each family is awarded and recognized. For Philippine Consul General in San Francisco, Neil Ferrer, "we owe them, actually. For the consulate, we will be working with the Bayanihan Equity Center and with FilVetREP to reach out to those families for them to be recognized, acknowledged, and be given this very significant recognition."
Families of WW2 veterans are encouraged to check if they are eligible to receive a free replica of the Congressional Gold Medal during an official awarding ceremony in their area. For more information, visit filvetrep.org.