Advocates give updates on campaigns for WWII Filvets
SAN FRANCISCO – Supporters of Filipino veterans of World War II recently briefed community members on their efforts to secure a Congressional gold medal for the veterans’ historic contributions and the inclusion of their role in WWII in California’s high school curriculum.
Retired US Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba told veterans’ families and supporters that the Congressional Gold Medal bill (H.R. 2737), sponsored by Congress Members Tulsi Gabbard and Mark Takai (deceased) of Hawaii, Joe Heck of Nevada, Juan Vargas, Mike Thompson and Jackie Speier of California, is now pending in Congress.
The Congressional Gold Medal is meant to recognize the valuable contribution of the Filipino veterans in World War II.
Its companion bill in the Senate, SB1555, of Senators Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Dean Heller from Nevada was passed July 13 with 72 sponsors (of the 67 needed) while at the House of Representatives the bill needs to have the support of 95 more sponsors to make 290, which is two-thirds of the total House membership.
More sponsors needed
“As of July 22, we have 195 U.S. representatives in support of the bill. We need more from the House of Representatives by the end of September and we need the help of Nancy Pelosi, who has yet to sign as co-sponsor,” explained Taguba.
“The veterans cannot wait another year because they’ll think it is insulting. You keep telling them it is going to happen and wait another 75 years? No we owe it to them already especially not if they are dying eleven to thirteen a day,” stressed Taguba.
Taguba was with Bataan Legacy Historical Society (BLHS) Executive Director Cecilia Gaerlan, California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islanders American Affairs Chair Cirian Villavicencio and VEC Board President Atty. Lou Tancinco in the meeting at the Veterans Equity Center in San Francisco.
”We need to tell the stories of the 260,000 that started in 1941. We may have some 15 to 17,000 of them left and they are not talking anymore. We are now their voices. You are now their voices. I am their voice and we need to tell their stories over and over and over again,” Taguba maintained.
And telling the veterans’ wartime stories and making them part of the history curriculum to educate US high school students was the main topic of Gaerlan’s talk.
Inclusion in Calif. curriculum
Gaerlan broke the good news that the California state board of education approved the inclusion not just about the role of the Filipinos, but also the inclusion of the World War II in the Philippines in the history framework for Grade 11 in California, to educate the public on what the Filipinos did and sacrificed during World War II.
“It has to be included in the history books. The Department of Education in California only gives out the framework of instructions and it is up to the school districts if the 66 high school districts of around 1,600 high schools in California would implement this,” Gaerlan stressed.
She explained that her group is now designing an actual lesson plan so that the framework would be applied by California high schools.
Gaerlan also disclosed that inclusion in the textbooks may be starting in California high schools, but it has nationwide impact because California is one of two largest textbook consumers, and publishers of these textbooks are obligated to include the new additions in the new curriculum framework.
Villavicencio, himself a teacher, urged everyone to send letters to the members of House of Representatives of California to support the Congressional Gold Medal.
“Like General Taguba, I am confident that by September we will get the numbers needed for passage of this bill. We have to be active in this cause because if we don’t step up, if we don’t let our leaders know, then we may be forgotten altogether,” Villavicencio said.
File for parole immediately
Immigration lawyer Tancinco again reminded the veterans and their families that their family members can now come to the United States temporarily on the parole program for Filipino veterans because President Obama in July 2015 issued an order modernizing and streamlining the immigration system.
“What that means is that family members of Filipino veterans with approved petition, veterans who are alive or deceased will be able to get their children on parole. Parole is not a visa. They are allowed to come here due to a humanitarian discretion on the part of the government to allow the family members to come here as a response to a severe backlog in the immigration process,” Tancinco reiterated.
“One word of advice if you are ready with your documents, file it right away. The program for now is for five years. This is an executive policy of the present administration and if the next administration has a different immigration policy, this program will no longer be there. So act on it right away.”
On another important issue, Taguba reminded the veterans not to wear their army uniform in the way that is not in accordance with prevailing regulations.
“If you are wearing the wrong ribbons, the wrong medals and/or patches, you are subject to the stolen valor act, a criminal statute and can go to jail for that,” he warned. Taguba advised the veterans to instead wear a coat or simply wear their veterans’ cap.