Bill Introduced In U.S. Congress To Confer Filipino WWII Vets Gold Medal Of Honor

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) – A bill conferring Congressional Gold Medal of Honor on Filipino and Filipino American World War II veterans has been introduced in the United States Congress.

If passed, the bill will make Filipino and Filipino American veterans the second ethnic American group to be bestowed the highest civilian honor given by Congress. In 2011, the medal was conferred on Japanese-American veterans of World War II belonging to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, whose motto was “Go for Broke.” Some 19,000 Japanese Americans served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service, where they proved their loyalty to America and became some of the most decorated units in World War II. They were assigned in Europe during WW II.

A press conference announcing the bill was led jointly by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). Other members of the Senate and the House of Representatives were on hand to announce their support for the legislation, including: Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), Representative Joe Heck (R-NV), and Representative Juan Vargas (D-CA).

Filipino American Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Antonio Taguba also spoke at the press conference on behalf of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP). Two veterans, Purple Heart recipient Maj. (Ret.) Jesse Baltazar and Senior Chief Petty Officer (Ret.) Remigio Cabarcar were also present at the event.

The bill acknowledges the dedicated service of over 260,000 Filipinos and Filipino-Americans who fought side-by-side with American soldiers and seeks to collectively award the Congressional Gold Medal to the veterans.

PH AMBASSADOR HOPES THE BILL WILL MOVE FORWARD

Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. welcomed this development and expressed his hope for the bill to move forward.

“The announcement of this bill is timely as we celebrate Philippine Independence and the friendship between the Philippines and the United States. The 4th of July is the United States’ Independence Day and also Philippines-American Friendship Day. Our friendship has deep historical roots, which include fighting side by side in wars for liberation. I am pleased to see this friendship continue to grow and hope that our veterans receive the recognition they deserve,” said Ambassador Cuisia.

The Congressional Gold Medal is awarded to persons “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.”

The award is the US Congress’ highest expression of appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. It is also one of the highest civilian awards in the United States, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Although the first recipients were military figures who participated in the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War, Congress broadened the scope of the medal to include actors, authors, entertainers, musicians, pioneers in aeronautics and space, explorers, lifesavers, notables in science and medicine, athletes, humanitarians, public servants, and foreign recipients.

The medal normally is awarded to persons, but in 1979 the American Red Cross became the first organization to be honored with a gold medal. In 2014, Civil Air Patrol was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal for the organization’s service in World War II

The Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are generally considered to carry the same level of prestige (though significantly fewer Gold Medals have been awarded). The chief difference between the two is that the Freedom Medal is personally awarded by the President of the United States, and Congressional Gold Medals are awarded by Acts of Congress (Congress may authorize the President to present the award).

Per committee rules, legislation bestowing a Congressional Gold Medal upon a recipient must be co-sponsored by two-thirds of the membership of both the House of Representatives and the Senate before their respective committees (the House Committee on Financial Services and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs) will consider it.

The Congressional Gold Medal is distinct from the Medal of Honor, a military decoration for extreme bravery in action, and from the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, presented by NASA for extraordinary accomplishment in United States space exploration.

 

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