Kin of Filipino hero seek return of US war medal

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02:14 AM April 10th, 2012

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By: Tonette Orejas, April 10th, 2012 02:14 AM

CLARK FREEPORT—The family of a war hero, a member of the then Philippine Scouts under the US Army, has renewed its appeal for help in recovering the US Congressional Medal of Honor awarded to their ancestor 99 years ago.

A relative took the medal in the 1920s and was reported to have sold it at an auction last year.

Maria Delilah Turzar, a great granddaughter of Private Jose Baliton Nisperos, said the family’s appeal was directed at the winning bidder who paid $1,100 (P47,300 today at 43:1) for the medal.

“We learned recently from one of our supporters, Mr. Philip Garcia, about an auction in 2011. We received information [the winning bidder] was a Filipino-American based in the United States. The name of our lolo  is engraved on the medal. Please help us recover it,” said Turzar addressing the 28th annual reunion of the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society here on Saturday.

In General Order No. 64 issued on Nov. 25, 1912, the US War Department honored Nisperos with the medal for “most distinguished gallantry,” after he single-handedly beat back a group of Filipino rebels who had ambushed the 34th Company of the Philippine Scouts in Basilan on Sept. 24, 1911.

“Having been badly wounded (his left arm was broken and lacerated and he had several spear wounds in the body so he could not stand), Private Nisperos continued to fire his rifle with one hand until the enemy was repulsed, thereby aiding materially in preventing the annihilation of his party and the mutilation of their bodies,” read the citation.

Nisperos was only 24 at the time. His wounds so severe, the US Army discharged him and gave him a pension of $55 a month. He died at age 34 in 1922 following an illness.

The recovery of the medal, said to be the first to be conferred by the American government on an Asian and a Filipino, would finally end a sad chapter for his family.

Potenciana Nisperos, the widow, died penniless, unable to enjoy the monthly pension because she was unable to produce her husband’s medal, which the relative had taken, as proof of his heroism. She died in 1969, leaving nothing to her three daughters.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9892, led by Frank Hillard, was able to recently help the family secure a burial site for Nisperos at the Clark Veterans Cemetery here.

But the provincial government of La Union, where Nisperos was from, decided to honor one of its own by exhuming his remains that had been buried in the province and accorded him military honors in a reburial last April 2 in a public cemetery meant for its great sons and daughters.

Turzar said the La Union government also promised to buy back the medal for the Nisperos family and for its historical value.

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