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Hirono, Gabbard present Filipino WWII vets with Congressional Gold Medal

Filipino veterans who served during World War II received Congress’ highest civilian honor in a special ceremony held Wednesday in the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, along with other leaders presented the Congressional Gold Medal to Filipino World War II veterans.
“Presenting the Congressional Gold Medal to our Filipino World War II veterans is a long overdue honor for hundreds of thousands of veterans and their families,” Hirono said.

The medal honors the 260,000 Filipino and Filipino American soldiers who served during the war 75 years ago.

"These loyal and courageous soldiers fought bravely, sacrificed greatly, many even paying the ultimate price alongside our American troops, yet for far too long, their service and sacrifice has gone unrecognized in the U.S.," Gabbard said. "I'm honored and proud that we can finally be here today to right this wrong."

It was a years-long battle for Hirono and Gabbard, who repeatedly fought for more national recognition for these veterans. In 2015, President Obama signed their Filipino Veterans of World War II Gold Medal Act into law.

20 Hawaii veterans and their families attended Wednesday's ceremony. Senator Hirono met with Retired Major General and Leilehua grad, Tony Taguba, and three Hawaii honorees, Lucio Sanico, Oscar Bangui and Salome Calderon.

But Domingo Los Banos, 92, of Hawaii Kai couldn't make it to Washington because he's unable to walk so his cross was carried to the ceremony.

A promised fulfilled since Hirono and Los Banos met last Veteran's Day on board the USS Missouri.

"During his speech that day, Domingo (Los Banos) looked at me and said 'I want you to promise me that you'll get this done. We've already been waiting too long' and I promised him I would do whatever it took to get the gold medal bill passed," said Sen. Hirono.

18,000 Filipino veterans are still alive. Honoring them becomes even more critical as their numbers dwindle.

Los Banos said thank you on behalf of his fellow soldiers.

"Only 8 of us left in the outfit so it means something for us to be the last of the Mohicans," he said.

"I think it was a very emotionally satisfying experience for all of us and many of us had tears in our eyes including me," said Sen. Hirono.