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Group works to give medals to WW2 veterans in the Philippines

This Congressional Gold Medal honors a quarter-million Filipinos who fought during World World II at a time when their country was a U.S. commonwealth. (COURTESY OF SONNY BUSA)

Filipino veterans won’t have to pay for medals that recognize their service to America during World War II, says a former Army officer who is helping raise money for them.

“People don’t realize that Filipinos fought [for the United States] in the Philippines,” Sonny Busa, the ex-officer and former diplomat, told U.S. veterans of foreign wars during a recent meeting in Angeles City, Philippines. “They don’t realize there were Filipinos on the [Bataan] Death March.”

During an October ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, a Congressional Gold Medal was presented in honor of a quarter-million Filipinos who fought at a time when their country was a U.S. commonwealth.

The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, created to raise awareness of the veterans’ service, is raising money to present individual veterans with replicas of that medal, which is on par with the Presidential Medal of Freedom as the nation’s highest civilian award.

Out of 1,000 printed, about 300 have been presented to U.S.-based Filipino veterans to date. However, Congress hasn’t appropriated funds for individual medals. Instead, private donors are paying for them, Busa said.

“The vets won’t pay [for the medals]. They’ve paid for them in blood,” said Busa, who is now a professor at the Philippine Military Academy.

There are 9,000 Filipino World War II veterans still living in the Philippines. Supporters hope to hold a ceremony there next year and present 100 medals. The goal is to raise awareness of the veterans’ service and raise more money to give medals to the others, Busa said.

“Interest in the medal is intense in the Philippines, but the funding is lagging,” he told Stars and Stripes via email this week. “As soon as there is an award ceremony I am confident that the donations will pour in.”

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