Jaymee Faith Sagisi
Greetings to you Chair Filner and the members of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today and for your astounding leadership, Representative Filner, in continuing to move this significant issue forward.
I am here to testify about the one thing that brings us all together today for this momentous, yet long overdue event – that one common thread that binds us all together is service.
As you have heard the remarkable stories of our Filipino WWII veterans, they shared their individual recollections of their service. It was their service that stopped the Japanese imperialist and guaranteed victory in the Philippines, a then-existing territory of the United States. It is their service that still goes unrecognized.
And today, it is your sense of civil service to listen to us constituents and do what is right. I urge you to reflect on the values that brought you to become civil servants and vote your conscience.
In this same spirit of service, I am here on behalf of the students and youth, to testify to the youth’s relentless service to this cause of winning equity for our brave elders – both men and women, who took it upon themselves to defend the islands against violent occupation when they were our same age.
As many of you already know, youth and students have played crucial roles in advancing social justice and fighting for civil rights. The voting block from the past election shows a galvanizing younger voting base with greater interests towards politics. As part of this base, the Student Action for Veterans Equity, also known as, SAVE has tried to mobilize youth in high schools, colleges and universities around the issue of full equity.
In 2002, S.A.V.E. was established and started as the youth sector of the National Network for Veterans Equity. Later, we became our own independent coalition (a sister coalition to NNVE) to focus solely on raising awareness among youth and students. At our height, we had member colleges from all over the nation, including but not limited to colleges in New York, Texas, Illinois, Washington, Hawaii, Virginia, Maryland and California. We have been able to accomplish many things to advance the fight for equity. We established the Brown Ribbon Campaign, a national campaign for veterans’ equity, which we launched in 2003. We hosted a West Coast Summit for high school and college students primarily concentrated in institutions all over California, in Nevada and in Washington. We host national vigils and every year since our establishment, we host a week of action, commemorating the military order of President Roosevelt dated July 26, 1941, in which over 200,000 Filipino WWII soldiers were inducted under U.S. forces.
Just this past 109th Congress, we launched a national letter writing campaign, where hundreds of letters were sent daily to the chairs of both the house Veterans’ Affairs Committee and Senate Affairs Committee. Each letter highlighted the story and service of a Filipino WWII veteran, many of whom have already passed but we still keep alive through this fight for justice. And in building off of these efforts, today I am submitting to you another hundred letter from students around this nation, in support of cause.
I want to leave you with some final thoughts. The fight for full veterans’ equity was the first issue that brought me to work in my community, almost a decade ago. It is a close issue to me since my lolo Celedonia R. Cadiz was a Filipino guerilla, who became MIA and later was declared dead, during World War II. I learned through this campaign that there are two groups of people in this world: those who are born with rights and those who have to fight for their rights. I stand before you as a member of a community that had to fight for every right we have. And with the issue; we stand in the same position. We as the members of SAVE, understand this fight, and stand ready. We will not waiver for anything less than equity. We will continue this fight for their rights and only you can redeem their courageous service. Support the Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 2007 and recognize their service once and for all.