Filipino World War II veterans receive their medals in Las Vegas
After nearly seven decades of living in the shadows of other war veterans, the Filipino veterans of World War II have finally received their long-overdue recognition.
On Saturday, October 13, Nevada’s elected officials Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Rep. Jacky Rosen (NV-03), Rep. Dina Titus (NV-01), and Rep. Ruben Kihuen (NV-04), along with the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FILVETREP), presented the Congressional Gold Medals (CGM) to Nevada’s Filipino WWII veterans.
“The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor that Congress can bestow, and no group is more deserving than the Filipino veterans of World War II,” Cortez Masto said in a press release.
The veterans who received their CGM replicas at Saturday’s ceremony included Regalado Baldonado, Jose Cosgayon, Jaime Creencia, Epifanio Dancel, Aurelio Dela Cruz, Marcelino Esguerra, Ruben Lacanienta, Leonardo Palao, Maximiano Ramos and Luis Villamor.
“Undeterred by the attacks or the danger they faced, over a quarter million Filipinos and Filipino-Americans fought for the Allied Forces in World War II. Our nation is forever indebted to them for their bravery and sacrifice,” the junior senator continued.
Veterans from Arizona, Utah and California were also honored at the ceremony.
Rosen joined the festivities on Saturday, thanking the veterans for their service and acknowledging the undue decades-long wait for formal recognition for the service of the more than 250,000 Filipinos who fought under the American flag.
“Our previous failure to thank and acknowledge Filipino World War II veterans for their service is a shameful chapter in our history that we need to keep correction,” said Rosen, who is running to replace Sen. Dean Heller’s seat this upcoming midterm elections.
Rosen is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and co-sponsored the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act, which would make Filipino WWII Veterans eligible for veterans’ benefits.
Additionally, Filipino veterans who served were granted full American citizenship, but their children were not. The backlogged immigration system means that there are still thousands of veterans who haven’t reunited with their family members.
The Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act of 2017 is a family-based immigration program that would expedite the visa process for certain family members of veterans, if passed. Cortez Masto is one of the cosponsors of the act.
At a media roundtable with members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, Cortez Masto — who is a third-generation Mexican-American — called out the Trump administration for its threats to cut family reunification immigration programs (which trump derogatorily calls “chain migration”), which are how a majority of API families have been able to become U.S. citizens, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
“[The Trump administration is] trying to prevent family reunification even though, if you just saw the news, the First Lady’s family were beneficiaries of it,” Cortez Masto said, referencing the recent naturalization of First Lady Melania Trump’s parents, who were Slovenian nationals.
“This is what is so outrageous to me. It’s about all of our families and what we’ve done for this country and to allow them to continue attacking that is outrageous,” the senator added. “The hope is this: we gotta take back the agenda. We need leverage. We need to take back the House in Congress. Elections matter because if we take back the majority then we take back control of the agenda, and [family reunification] is something that we can push. It’s about checks and balances, and we need to get back to that.”
Nevada, a prominent swing state, is on the verge of being a part of the potential partisan shift in the Senate with Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen running against Republican incumbent Dean Heller.
As of Wednesday, Oct. 17, RealClearPolitics puts Heller at a +1.7 lead against Rosen, but with less than three weeks before the midterms, it’s anyone’s race.
Klarize Medenilla is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected]