THIRTEEN Filipino World War II veterans were honored Thursday with the Congressional Gold Medal, the United States Congress’ highest civilian honor, for their service in Bataan.
Awardees include Brigadier General Pedro Zafra, Colonel Paterno Viloria, Lieutenant Colonel Frisco San Juan, Lieutenant Commodore Bienvenido Alano Sr., Major Maximo Young, Corporal Oscar Bunconsejo, Technical Sergeant Sixto Navidad;
Private First Class Manuel Pamaran, Private First Class Jose Sepulveda, Private Roberto Agustino, Private Sixto Guanzon, Private Bienvenido Sermonia, and Private Ricardo Madayag.
Navidad is 100 years old while the rest of the veterans are aged 91 and up. Some of the awardees were represented by their relatives at the ceremony.
“It is of great honor and pride to be bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress,” a US Embassy statement quoted Viloria as saying.
“I am overjoyed that after more than seven decades, we Filipino Veterans of World War II, who fought side by side the United States Armed Forces, are finally getting the honor and recognition we deserve for our bravery and heroism, and our selfless sacrifice and dedicated service during the war.”
Getting the medals for the veterans required the votes of two-thirds of the US Congress, Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
Congress passed the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act in November 2016. Then President Barack Obama signed the bill into law the following month.
The first batch of awardees received their medal on Oct. 25, 2017 at the US Capitol building in Washington, DC.
US Ambassador Sung Kim also thanked the veterans for their service in Bataan, Corregidor and Manila.
“What they have freely given is beyond our power to repay, but on this day and at this time, we recognize our debt for their sacrifices with deep respect and profound appreciation,” Kim said in a statement.
Lorenzana said the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office will hold more ceremonies for other World War II veterans in Baguio City and other parts of the country in the coming days. (GMA News)