By Jon D. Melegrito
We Can Do This: Send That Letter!
Advocates for Filipino World War II Veterans are confident Congress will do the right thing this year and grant the recognition that has eluded our brave heroes for more than 70 years.
What buoyed their hopes is the number of US Senators who have come on board in the last four weeks to co-sponsor S. 1555, the senate counterpart of HR 2737, the Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015. This measure seeks to correct an injustice by once and for all recognizing the 260,000 Filipino and American soldiers who served under the US flag during World War II.
U.S. Senators Mazie Hirono (D) and Dean Heller (R), (center) sponsors of the Filipino Veterans Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015, met June 16 with leaders of the Filipino Veterans Recognition & Education Project (from left) Erick Soriano, Ben de Guzman and Marie Blanco, to plan next steps in getting the bill passed. (PINOY Photo by Jon Melegrito).
As of June 15, almost a year after the bills were introduced, 61 Senators had already signed on as co-sponsors. Only six more are needed to meet the 67 votes required.
On June 16, leaders of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP) met with Senators Hirono (D-HI) and Heller (R-NV), sponsors of the senate legislation. They were determined to personally talk to their colleagues and secure enough co-sponsors before Congress breaks for its July 4th recess.
So far, there are 40 Democrats, 21 Republicans and 2 Independents on record as supportive. They include both Senators from Illinois, among the early backers of the bill. Sen. Heller vowed to get more Republicans to join, if only to demonstrate the bipartisan spirit of this initiative.
Engaging House Members
It’s not as promising in the U.S. House of Representatives at this point, however, and that’s the main focus of congressional engagement in the next three months.
As of June 16, there are 147 co-sponsors (110 Democrats, 38 Republicans, 1 Independent). To meet the 290 votes required, we need 141 more. The numbers look daunting, but we believe it is doable.
“We need champions in the House to move this legislation forward,” Sen. Hirono said. “But House members also need to hear directly from their constituents.”
Here’s a state-by-state breakdown in the Midwest, listing House members who have yet to sign as co-sponsors. They need to be called, e-mailed and visited:
ILLINOIS: Rep. Robin Kelly (D-2), Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-3), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-4), Rep. Mike Quigley (D-5), Rep. Peter Roskam (R-6), Rep. Danny Davis (D-7), Rep. Brad Schneider (D-10), Rep. Bill Enyart (D-12), Rep. Rodney Davis (R-13), Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-14), Rep. John Shimkus (R-15), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-16), Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-17), Rep. Aaron Schock (R-18). We thank Rep. Tammy Duckworth, Rep. Bill Foster, Rep. Bobby Rush, Rep. Jan Schakowsky for having signed on already.
IOWA: Rep. Rod Blum (R–Dubuque), Rep. David Loebsack (D–Iowa City), Rep. David Young (R–Van Meter), Rep. Steve King (R–Kiron).
INDIANA: Rep. Pete Visclosky (D–Merrillville), Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R–Howe), Rep. Todd Rokita (R–Indianapolis), Rep. Susan Brooks (R–Carmel), Rep. Luke Messer (R–Shelbyville), Rep. Larry Bucshon (R–Newburgh),Rep. Todd Young (R–Bloomington).
MISSOURI: Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Jefferson City), Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Columbia), Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Kansas City), Rep. Samuel Graves (R-Independence/Kansas City), Rep. William Long (R-Springfield).
OHIO: Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati), Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Cincinnati), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Lima), Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Marietta), Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Avon), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo), Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton), Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Warrensville Heights), Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Galena), Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Columbus).
We encourage our readers who have friends and relatives in these districts to urge them to reach out to their Representatives. A phone call or an e-mail to their district offices makes a big difference. A personal visit, if possible, is even better. House members will be home in their districts between July 18-29.
You may use the following talking points in explaining why their support for the Congressional Gold Medal is important:
It has been 70 years since World War II ended. Over 200,000 Filipino soldiers fought in a battle where they played a vital role in the outcome of the war. The courageous efforts of Filipino soldiers, scouts and guerillas were central to allied victory in the Philippines and in the Pacific theater.
Despite their sacrifices and loyal service, however, they have never been formally recognized by the United States of America. Today, an estimated 16,000 to 17,000 soldiers remain in the U.S. and Philippines. They are in their 90s, and they will all soon pass away.
Other groups have been formally recognized by the U.S. with the Congressional Gold Medal for World War II service. They include the Tuskegee Airmen, Montford Marines, Navajo Code Talkers, Women Air Service Pilots, Japanese American Nisei Soldiers and Puerto Rican Soldiers.
Filipino World War II veterans are equally deserving of this honor. To this end, the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP) was formed last year. Its mission is to obtain national recognition of the Filipino World War II soldiers for their wartime service to the United States from July 1941 to December 1946.
In addition to requesting an act of Congress approving the Congressional Gold Medal (CGM), the project will also conduct research on the Filipino American soldiers experience during World War II and implement a national education and information campaign to raise public awareness of the Filipino soldiers’ wartime service.
For more information, please go to www.filvetrep.org and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FilVetsRecognition.
We can do this. But we need everyone’s support.