Filipino Veterans have been neglected for nearly 60 years since World War II. And the US Senate finally passes a bill boosting veteran benefits, including those for Filipino Veterans.
Supporters of the controversial provision said it would overturn a 60-year-old law and give 18,000 Filipino veterans of World War II who live abroad a roughly US$300-a-month pension.
Sadly, it’s a bit too late for the majority of Filipino Veterans who have passed on.
I was five when I learned of my grandfather’s story during World War II. A local San Francisco Bay Area news reporter, Wendy Tokuda, came to interview my grandfather about his experience. It was during this television interview that I learned of my grandfather’s bravery. My grandfather enlisted when he was 18 to fight against the Japanese in World War II. He was a cook in the Navy, because at that time most minorities were given these types of jobs. But it wasn’t the job that became so interesting for the news reporter. It was what the Navy asked my grandfather to do. In 1945, they ordered him and a number of other soldiers to stand on the bow of their ship and look at the water. They were told to look at the ocean along the horizon. A few minutes later, a bright light flashed and a mushroom cloud formed. The navy conducted tests on my grandfather to study the affects of nuclear blasts and radiation on their soldiers.
I understood why my grandfather wore thick glass-bottled lenses. I understood why he had trouble seeing his later years in life. But I never understood why he was still so proud to have served in the Navy, after what the military and government had done. To his last dying day he was proud to be a Filipino Veteran. He looked upon his duty with honor, without remorse or regret.
The bill’s passing is honorable, and it’s welcomed. But for most it’s a bit too late. But even if it came many years after, I’m sure if my grandfather was here today, he would still stand and salute and would have been ever so proud to have served.