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True heroism: Discover the legacy award given to Filipino World War II veterans

Filipino World War II veterans
Almost 80 years after he had left the World War II battlefield, a Filipino veteran was granted the prestigious US Congressional Gold Medal by US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson. Some 250,000 Filipino World War II veterans have been given the same award. US Embassy photo.

To celebrate the lasting legacy of Filipino World War II veterans in the fight for freedom, the United States held an awarding ceremony vesting the US Congressional Gold Medal on 41 former soldiers.

Conducted at Camp Aguinaldo on June 30, 2023, the function commemorated the service of 14 living and 27 deceased veterans. The event was spearheaded by the Department of National Defense (DND), the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, and the US Embassy.

The medal was first given to a total of 260,000 Filipino veterans of World War II on December 14, 2016. Awarding ceremonies for these brave soldiers have since been conducted in batches, with 84 commemorations being held since October 2017.

Dating back to the American War of Independence, the US Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor bestowed by the US Congress on civilians. Individuals are recognized for exemplary work in military service, politics, humanitarian work, science, and the like. Previous recipients include first US President George Washington and lightbulb inventor Thomas Edison. Recently, Congress conferred the medal on defenders of the US Capitol during the insurrection on January 6, 2021.

“The decoration is awarded to an individual or unit who performs an outstanding deed or act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States,” the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP) stated.


Notably, Congressional Gold Medals are minted with different designs depending on the achievement being honored. The US Department of the Treasury bureau US Mint, which is responsible for producing coins for the country, collaborated with FilVetREP in developing the unique medal for Filipino veterans.

The reverse side of the medal, which proudly displays the words “Duty to Country”, mentions the World War II military campaigns in Bataan and Corregidor, Luzon, Leyte, and Southern Philippines. The design also refers to key dates in Philippine World War II history: the 1941 Japanese invasion, the 1945 independence movement that freed the Philippines from Japan, and the 1946 declaration of the war’s end and the approval of the crucial Rescission Acts.

Meanwhile, the obverse features two illustrations of valorous Filipino soldiers. “The obverse is very distinctive in depicting faces of soldiers and guerrillas in their period uniforms, headgear, and weapons in representing the Philippine Commonwealth Army, Philippine Scouts, First Filipino Infantry Regiment, Second Filipino Infantry Battalion, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, and Recognized Guerrillas — units that comprised major combat forces of the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) from July 26, 1941 to December 31, 1946,” PhilVetREP said. The bottom of the obverse side also features a US Army soldier on the shores of Leyte in 1944.

The obverse side of the prestigious US Congressional Gold Medal for Filipino World War II veterans. US Embassy photo.

At the ceremony, US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson praised the veterans’ “selfless acts, bravery, admirable tenacity, and sacrifices”. DND Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., through his proxy DND Acting Undersecretary Angelito M. De Leon, added, “Our veterans won not only the liberation of the Philippines but also the restoration of human dignity and democratic way of life.”

‌In 2020, Filipino World War II veteran Venancio Espinosa was also given the Congressional Gold Medal in a private ceremony. In 2021, more Filipino veterans from World War II shared their stories in a video series for Ayala Foundation.

SEND CONGRATULATIONS in the comments below to the brave, freedom-loving veterans who fought in World War II!

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Summer Sanares
Summer Sanares
Summer is a political science student with a twin passion for journalism. Her hobbies include watching geography documentaries, searching the metro for plant-based food, and free-falling through Wikipedia rabbit holes. Her works have previously been featured in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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