By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Eight living Filipino veterans were awarded a Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony at the International Drop-In Center on Beacon Hill on Nov. 15. Seattle Mayor-elect Jenny Durkan was present and made remarks commending the service of the veterans.
Gregorio Garcia (96), Prescillano Credo (97), Joe Taton (101), Bienvenido Mendoza (90), Escolastico Galarosa (101), Julion Nicolas (95), and George Schinzing (90) were attendance at the ceremony. The family of Florentino Ceniza, who lives in Cebu in the Philippines. was also present. Ceniza is 104 years old. The eight men were unable to travel to Washington D.C. when a ceremony was held at the U.S. Capitol last month. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest award granted to civilians.
“We brought the medals to them,” stated Brig. Gen. Oscar Hillman, Region 8 Director. The region covers Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska.
Despite their advanced age, the vets and their families were happy to receive the award as they had waited a long time for the honor.
Hillman thanked the veterans for their service. He also commended the state of Washington for being the first to have all of its members of Congress sign off on the law granting the medal to the veterans. Hillman also noted that through fundraising, Region 8 was able to purchase $20,000 in medals for the Filipino veterans and their next of kin.
“No veteran will have to pay for a Congressional Gold Medal,” Hillman said.
Durkan thanked the veterans for their service as well.
“It took too long for them to get the recognition that they deserved and they laid down their lives and sacrificed themselves and their families sacrificed for our nation.” Durkan told the crowd her father served in World War II, was injured in the war, and received medical assistance at the Veteran’s Hospital minutes away from the drop-in center.
Similar to the award presentation in Washington D.C., family were in attendance to watch their veterans receive the medals.
Promises to Filipino servicemen of benefits and citizenship for fighting in World War II were rescinded. In 2009, the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund authorized the release of a one-time, lump-sum payment to eligible World War II Filipino veterans. In December 2016, President Barack Obama signed a law granting Filipino veterans of World War II the Congressional Gold Medal.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.