OVERDUE RECOGNITION. Celestino Almeda, a Filipino World War
II veteran, speaks during a ceremony at Emancipation Hall on
Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Almeda and other Filipino
veterans of World War II were awarded the Congressional Gold
Medal. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
From The Asian Reporter, V27, #21 (November 6, 2017),
pages 7 & 13.
Filipino WWII veterans awarded Congressional
By Matthew Daly
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Celestino Almeda joined the Philippine
Commonwealth Army in 1941, fought alongside U.S. soldiers during
World War II, and for nearly a decade has been seeking money the
federal government had promised.
The 100-year-old veteran got his recognition and finally his
Almeda received the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s
highest civilian honor. Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin
also announced at a capitol ceremony that Almeda was getting a
check, 72 years after the war ended.
Shulkin’s announcement drew gasps from some of the hundreds
in attendance at the medal ceremony, which house speaker Paul
Ryan (R-Wisconsin), acknowledged was "long, long overdue."
Almeda, dressed in his military cap, told the crowd he was
glad to be able to accept the medal, noting that "many have
passed away waiting for 75 years for this time to come."
Almeda said he and other Filipino veterans have long "felt
unrecognized for fighting for our country," adding, "I wondered
why" since he and his fellow soldiers had brought "victory
during a long war in the Philippines."
The gold medal signified that his service — and that of
thousands of other Filipino veterans — is recognized, Almeda
said, calling himself a warrior who "will never quit."
Almeda was a 24-year-old teacher when he joined the
Philippine Commonwealth Army in 1941. After the war, he resumed
his career as a teacher and was granted U.S. citizenship in the
1990s. In 2003, he began receiving medical benefits from the
Department of Veterans Affairs under a law aimed at Filipino
But Almeda, now 100 and living outside Washington, has been
fighting for nearly a decade to receive a $15,000 lump-sum
payment promised to Filipino veterans under the 2009 economic
Almeda was among more than 250,000 Filipino soldiers who
served alongside U.S. soldiers in World War II, including more
than 57,000 who died. After the war ended, President Harry S.
Truman signed laws that stripped away promises of benefits and
citizenship for Filipino veterans.
Only recently have the veterans won back some concessions and
acknowledgement, including the gold medal.
Ryan said the capitol ceremony was more than "a feel-good
story of delayed recognition. We are here to immortalize the
legacy of great liberators, who have paved the way for
generations to follow."
The ceremony — and the gold medal — should "serve to ensure
that those who fought for freedom are never forgotten, and
always remembered," Ryan said.
Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai‘i) said Filipino veterans
enlisted for World War II "knowing full well that the enemy
could discover who they were and retaliate against their
Even after their service "was practically erased from
American records ... these veterans never gave up," Hirono said.
"They organized and fought for what they had earned."
In 1990, congress awarded U.S. citizenship to thousands of
Filipino veterans and later extended VA benefits to them. The
2009 stimulus law authorized the lump-sum payments, although in
some cases missing or poor records blocked the payments from
"After bravely serving our country, it is frankly shameful
that these veterans had to fight so hard for what they were
promised," Hirono said.
Today, only 18,000 Filipino veterans are still alive.
"We are living in tumultuous times, and we have many
disagreements," Hirono said, "but we agree that it is our
responsibility as public servants and Americans to honor each
veteran in the same way they honored our country."