Submission For The Record of Ms. Lillian Galedo, National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity, Co-Chair, Executive Director, Filipinos for Affirmative Action, Oakland, CA
My name is Lillian Galedo. I am the Co-chair of the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity (NAFVE) a recently formed national coalition of organizations and individuals who have fought for the past twelve years for the right of Filipino World War II veterans to equal status in the eyes of the U.S. government. I am also the Executive Director of Filipinos for Affirmative Action, in Oakland, California.
It is the National Alliance’s fervent hope that the U.S. Congress will finally correct a 60+-year injustice, and restore to Filipino WWII veterans their rightful claim to U.S. veterans’ status. For the past six decades these brave veterans have sought to end the discrimination they have endured and be recognized as equal to all other WWII veterans who fought under U.S. command.
The Filipino community, which is now 2.5 million strong and has a 100+ history here in the U.S., has made this issue a priority since these veterans were finally granted the ability to apply for U.S. citizenship in the early 1990’s.
Historically, WWII is remembered as the “the good war” against the threat of fascism. As a nation Americans remain ignorant of the Pacific ‘theater’ of WWII against Japan. In the national ‘minds eye’ we see American combatants in the Pacific, and blot out the contributions of the thousands of Filipinos and Pacific Islanders who fought and died on this front.
Americans have very little appreciation for the debt we owe the Filipino people. As a colony of the U.S. Filipinos were inducted into the U.S. military by Executive Order. They fought alongside Americans, under the same commander, for the same reasons. The most sustained campaign against Japanese tyranny was fought in the Philippines. The Filipino people’s resistance to the Japan’s invasion and to the subsequent occupation of the Philippines provided the U.S. the ‘breathing room’ to rebuild American forces after Pearl Harbor and rethink our war strategy. The valiant resistance by Filipinos forced the Japanese to maintain resources in the Philippine occupation, weakening Japanese ability to defend themselves in other parts of the Pacific.
Risking everything so we in the U.S. wouldn’t experience the terror of war on our soil, the Filipino military -- regular and guerrilla -- fought against overwhelming odds to spare Americans the agony of war. Because Filipinos fought the Japanese so courageously in Luzon, Americans did not have to fight the war in Monterey, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
The cost of war for the Filipino people was 300,000 dead, a thoroughly damaged infrastructure, and a devastated economy. For their sacrifices, the U.S. Congress in 1945 legislated that the service of Filipinos did not constitute service in the U.S. military!
Today Filipino WWII veterans are in their late 70’s and 80’s, and living in poverty; unappreciated for their service to preserving democracy in the U.S. Their substandard living conditions are compounded by separation from a supportive family network, poor health, and in some cases depression.
What price freedom?
The Filipino community’s struggle to correct this injustice has been met year after year with false-concerns for the financial impact of ‘doing the right thing.’ How do we place a price tag on our freedom? How in a period of patriotism, and increased military spending, can Americans turn our backs on Filipino soldiers who displayed supreme patriotism? Surely, a government that appreciates the fact that America remained a free country after WWII will find the resources to compensate those who helped make it possible. Given the advanced age of the veterans and the high rate of deaths that is occurring, we are anxious to correct this injustice while there is a significant number of veterans to realize this victory.
We urge the 110th Congress to grant full military status, entitlement to the same benefits that other U.S. veterans receive, and the recognition of the role Filipinos played in preserving American democracy, by passing H.R. 760.