By Jon D. Melegrito


Letter from Washington


..."A Time to remember and reflect on WWII Filipino Vets"

...continued from index page

Among the surviving veterans is 100-year-old Celestino Almeda of Gaithersburg, Maryland. Since he came to the U.S. in 1991, he has been an ardent advocate for securing benefits for his comrades, who were unceremoniously stripped of their rights by the 1946 Rescission Act. Still, he remains a proud American. “This country has given me U.S. citizenship and access to health service, one reason why I lived to be a hundred,” he says.

right pic: Gregorio G. Melegrito joined the PH Commonwealth Army at age 22. He was among the 260,000 soldiers who were sworn in to the U.S. Armed Forces of the Far East (USAFEE). He was a Bataan Death March survivor. He was 89 when he died in 2005.

Also attending is my 89-year-old uncle, Arsenio S. Dizon. His son and daughter are driving from New York to bring him to Washington so he can personally witness the presentation. “The news boosted his spirit and he’s really excited,” says my cousins. “He has been constantly asking when it’s going to happen.” Two other uncles, Gil S. Dizon and Justino Vigilia (both deceased) are going to be represented by my cousins from New Jersey and Columbus, Ohio. I will, of course, be there for my dad, Gregorio G. Melegrito.

Historic mission

At a separate ceremony on the same day, bronze replicas of the Medal will be personally presented to living veterans and family members, along with a framed copy of the public law mandating this award. The one gold medal will be permanently house in the Smithsonian Institution, and complemented with a digitized education program.

I am both humbled and proud of the small role I played in lobbying Congress, engaging the media and serving as executive secretary of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP). I am grateful to U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba for his leadership in this national campaign, and to the remarkable efforts of many volunteers and generous donors who helped accomplish this historic mission.

Our next step now is to make sure we preserve their legacy by keeping their stories alive. We hope to install at the National Museum of American History, where the Congressional Gold Medal will be displayed, a dedicated section where millions of visitors will learn about the 260,000 Filipino soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice so that Americans can live freely in this sweet land of liberty.

And, finally, we can say proudly: Filipino soldiers never die. Neither will they fade away.They are now part of American history.






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