Mr. Gil P. Zulueta
Congressman Bob Filner and members of the House Veterans Committee, My name is Virgilio Zulueta. My friends call me Gil. I am a resident of Virginia Beach, Virginia and I am a citizen of the United States.
In a nutshell, the ultimate goals are to obtain monetary compensation and secure preferential treatment for immigration to this country for the Filipino Veterans of World War II. Those are the main reasons why my friends and I want to amend the so called Rescission Act of 1946. The simple truth, however, is that even though my father was one of those veterans, none of these reasons apply to him, to mother, to me or to any of my siblings.
So what is in it for me? It will help me explain if you allow me to tell a little more about myself, my family and where I came from.
I was born during World War II in the little town of Morong in the province of Bataan, the Philippines. For those who are familiar with the events and places related to the said war, the place is where the US Armed Forces held its last stand against the Japanese Imperial Army. The Fall of Bataan is commemorated every year on April 9. One will find these facts in history books. Of course, not about my being born – there are way too many much more significant “world events” to write about than that.
Also in the history books are the gallantry and many sacrifices of both the American and Filipino soldiers. While still very young and not yet able to read, I was fortunate to know some of the war stories without the aid of the history books. Countless times, I listened to the stories as they were told so vividly and first hand by the former soldiers and by the members of the guerrilla forces. “Story telling” was just about the pastime among the populace in the small town where I grew up. People will group together in no particular place and share stories. Because the war had just recently ended at the time, the grown ups frequently talked about their war experiences or those of their friends and relatives. There were no movie house, no bowling alley or any form of recreation – “story telling” is the only thing.
One such a story is about four brothers who were in a particular gathering. Two of the brothers were among about a dozen or so men that were being beaten by Japanese soldiers near the town plaza. The men have their hands tied behind their back and unable to defend themselves from the blows. The choice of weapon was branches of guava plant with the diameter about the size of a man’s wrist. Guava wood is known for being sturdy and not easy to break. As the two brothers continue to receive the blows, two of their younger brothers were among the onlookers who helplessly watch the beatings. They were helplessly watching because they were prevented to cross a perimeter of Japanese soldiers with bayonets mounted on their rifles.
The pain must have been so unbearable not only for the two brothers receiving the actual blows but also for the two brothers who were witnessing the beatings. They suffered such brutality because they were members of an organized guerilla forces and were known to have given comfort to American soldiers who were able to evade capture by the enemies. By the way, the four brothers were my father and three of his siblings.
The trauma suffered from the brutal beatings plus the sufferings from the physical and emotional stress of the war must have set their toll. Their immune systems deteriorated to the point that they became sickly. Both of them died shortly after the war. They were in their 30s when they died of disease. Had they been able to avail themselves with better healthcare maybe they could have live longer. My two uncles and thousands of men like them should have been provided with healthcare by the United States government for their services in the US Armed Forces. This was not to be the case because of the so-called Recession Act of 1946.
To complete the story of the four brothers, one of them, my father, died at age 45. He enjoyed at least for a short period the benefits of his wartime services. The benefits were from the Philippine government and not from the United States. Again, this is so because of the Rescission Act of 1946. The fourth brother, survived the Bataan Death March. He took advantage of the GI Bill given to members of the USAFFE and went back to school after the war. He has since immigrated to the United States together with his family. He is still alive and proudly drives his car with a POW license plate issued by the state of Nevada. He is the only living sibling of my father; his name is Nestro Zulueta.
Two years ago, I was home in the Philippines during the commemoration of the Fall of Bataan in Mt. Samat. I met some of my Uncle Nestro’s contemporaries. They are old now – very old. Among their ranks, few of them die each day. For most of them, they have yet to receive a single cent for their services performed more than half of a century ago in the United States Armed Forces.
Gentlemen and gentle ladies of the Committee, I submit to you that this is wrong. You have the power to undo a great injustice. You have the power to amend the Rescission Act of 1946. I am asking you to do the right thing. Thank you all very much for listening.