Filipino World War II Veterans honored at Congressional Gold Medal Award Ceremony
Among the living veterans present at the Veterans Ball and CGM Ceremony are (from left) 92-year-old Ciriaco Ladines, 91-year-old Rey Cabacar and 102-year-old Celestino Almeda. Also in photo are FilVetREP Region 2 Director Jay Cabacar, Philippine Veterans Affairs Administration Director, Commodore Elson Aguilar; FilVetREP Exec. Committee Member Sonny Busa, VFW Post 5471 Commander Rey Regis, VFW Maryland State Commander Thomas Williams; Executive Director for the Center for Minority Veterans at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Mr. Stephen Dillard, Col. Rebecca Samson, and Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba (Ret).
Oxon Hill, MD. Nov. 10.
At a solemn event held during the Veterans Day weekend, the Filipino American community along with dignitaries from the Philippine Embassy and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, members of the various US military services and guests honored 17 deceased Filipino World War II veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal. Their families received bronze replicas of the medal, along with copies of the Public Law.
Public Law 114-265, the Filipino Veterans of WWII Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2016, awards the Congressional Gold Medal to these soldiers for “their intrepidity and indominable courage against a brutal enemy in defense of the Philippines and United States from Dec 8, 1941 to Dec 31, 1946.”
The CGM recipients are: Alfonso A. Baes, Manuel B. Balagtas, Domingo G. Balod, Marcelino F. Baybin, Juanito Dalangin, Licurgo E. Estrada, Mauricio S. Flores, Dionisio M. Garcia, Rimberto L. Gonzalez, Iluminado C. Interior, Melvin H. McCoy, Eladio V. Mondragon, Jose F. Orevillo, Eusebio B. Pamittan, Florentino A. Paunil, Ernesto C. Segismundo, Segundo P. Velasco, Emilio Versoza.
Major General Antonio Taguba, US Army Retired and Chairman of the Filipino Veterans Education and Recognition Project, presented the awards. He was assisted by U.S. Army Col. Rebecca Samson, and Philippine Military officers BG Marlo Guloy and PGEN Jong Ramos.
Veterans Ball Chairman Rey Cabacar, a 91-year-old Filipino World War II Veteran, gave the keynote address. He talked about the event’s theme, “Honoring our Veterans with Eternal Gratitude and Pride.” He called on the more than 200 guests present to “remember the sacrifices of young men and women over the past 100 years. They were willing to place themselves in harm’s way, left their families, careers, and home to serve the greater good – the peace and well-being of others.”
Cabacar recounted leaving home at 18 years old and walking 32 miles to enlist in the U.S. Navy. “I’m proud of the many others who have taken a similar walk, leaving home to serve this country – and for that I honor them.”
In his remarks, Gen. Taguba said the presentation of CGM awards to Filipino World War II veterans is “an opportunity to preserve their legacy, to tell their story of triumph and injustice they experienced over a lifetime, and to raise awareness of their lifelong quest for recognition.”
Also delivering special remarks were Philippine Veterans Affairs Administration Director, Commodore Elson Aguilar; Philippine Embassy Consul General to the United States Rene Villa; VFW Maryland State Commander Thomas Williams; and Executive Director for the Center for Minority Veterans at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Mr. Stephen Dillard, and Maryland Delegate Kris Valderrama.
The evening entertainment was provided by Anthony Castelo, a multi-awarded Filipino singer/composer currently based in Los Angeles, and Company B, an amateur troupe of 16 dancers. They performed the 1941 hit “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Oh Johnny.”
Col. Lorna Mae DeVera and Capt. Corby Megorden, USN Retired were the co-emcees. The organizing committee members include Mr. Cabacar and Gen. Taguba as co-chairs; Rey Regis, Post Commander of VFW 5471, vice chair; Bing Branigin, Sonny & Ceres Busa, Jay and Fely Cabacar, BenHur and Mary Cabiao, John Cadisal, Ador Carreon, Waret Chastain, Nap Curameng, Chris Dixon, John & Merlyn Eda, Louie Maligat. Corby & Vilma Megorden, Jon Melegrito, Andy Miranda, Lida Peterson, Mitzi Pickard, Dolly Regis, John Victoria, Zeny Viloria