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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Commemorates Day of Valor, Honors Filipino Veterans

This morning at the Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Kauaʻi Mayor Bernard Carvalho delivered remarks to honor Filipino and Filipino-American veterans in commemoration of the 75th Ara Ng Kagitingan—The Day of Valor.  In her remarks, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a twice-deployed Major with the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard, shared the following:

“In 1942, over 60,000 Filipino and 15,000 American soldiers were surrendered to the Japanese in what we now know as the Fall of Bataan. Despite the unimaginable hardship that they endured, these brave men fought relentlessly against their enemies without any outside support from either the Philippines or the United States. In total, around 21,000 soldiers lost their lives. The legacy and sacrifice of these heroes must never be forgotten. Nor can we forget the high cost of war and the lasting effects that inevitably define those who are touched by its reaches. Today, as we commemorate the Day of Valor, we honor all of our courageous warriors, as well as their families who have made tremendous sacrifices, and we give thanks for the great and lasting partnerships that were paved—truly—by these heroes.”

Today’s commemoration ceremony also celebrated the passage of landmark legislation, the Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015, which was introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Sen. Mazie Hirono to honor Filipino Veterans of World War II, as well as the launch of the Filipino-American Veterans Parole Program.

Transcript of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s remarks:

Aloha. Mabuhay. It’s wonderful to be back home here in Hawaii from Washington and to be able to spend this special morning with all of you.

As a veteran and someone who has spent a lot of time in the Philippines, and with many friends from there, I feel very much at home and amongst family here today. I appreciate you welcoming all of us to join you in recognizing this important Day of Valor and sharing why it is so important to reflect on this historical event, especially in this most special place and amongst courageous heroes of past and present.

In 1942, over 60,000 Filipino and 15,000 American soldiers were surrendered to the Japanese in what we now know as the Fall of Bataan. Despite the unimaginable hardship that they endured, these brave men fought relentlessly against their enemies without any outside support from either the Philippines or the United States.

In total, around 21,000 soldiers lost their lives. The legacy and sacrifice of these heroes must never be forgotten. Nor can we forget the high cost of war and the lasting effects that inevitably define those who are touched by its reaches.

For decades, legislation has been introduced in the United States Congress to honor our Filipino Veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal and, as you’ve heard, we were finally successful at obtaining this long overdue recognition—thanks in large part to the support and leadership of so many of you here today. Last Session, I was very proud, along with Senator Hirono, to reintroduce and finally pass this legislation, honoring our Filipino Veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal Act, and see President Obama signed it into law in December, just before he left office.

It was a special thing to be able to share the stories and experiences of some of the Filipino veterans here today and their families with other members of Congress as we were seeking support to pass this legislation. In the House, where we have more than 435 members of Congress, we were able to get more than 300 of them to support and sponsor the legislation. It was wonderful to be able to talk with them on the House Floor, to share some of these stories with them, and to educate them about the storied history of these brave heroes who fought alongside our American soldiers—they deserve nothing but the highest honor.

So now, on behalf of the United States Congress, we can officially honor the more than 200,000 Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers who served our country during World War II. These loyal and courageous soldiers served, suffered, and sacrificed—many paying that ultimate price—alongside their American counterparts throughout the war.

Though less than 18,000 of our Filipino WWII veterans are still alive today, some of whom are among us, this recognition is an important testament to each and every one of our veterans who earned and deserve their place amongst our greatest generation.

Today, as we commemorate the Day of Valor, we honor all of our courageous warriors, as well as their families who have made tremendous sacrifices, and we give thanks for the great and lasting partnerships that were paved—truly—by these heroes.

Annually, as we gather to honor this important Day of Valor, we recognize that it helps current and future generations to understand a little better the hardships and the values for which the ultimate sacrifice is made. And it inspires us to live our lives in a way that honors the values that they sacrificed for.

Here in Hawaii, we are a melting pot of cultures, ethnicities, and faiths, bound by a common thread of the aloha spirit.  The principles that guide us as we live aloha teach us to sincerely respect one another and come together with care, compassion, and love. So, let us remember these remarkable individuals and the driving forces of freedom, righteousness, and the desire for lasting peace that sustained their fighting souls. Thank you very much. Aloha.

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