Case supports Filipino vets

Memorial Day is a day to reflect on the sacrifices made in the name or freedom, said U.S. Rep. Ed Case, D-Neighbor Islands-Rural O‘ahu.

“It is a time when we remember our fallen, when we remember that freedom is not free, that each of us owes to our country a responsibility to maintain and preserve it, and that responsibility falls far more heavily on some than others,” Case said last week from Washington, D.C.

Case said one of the principle battlefields of World War II was the Philippines, and Filipino veterans should be remembered for their contributions as well.

At that time it was commonwealth of the United States, with loyal people who owed their allegiance to the U.S., he said.

“The battle to regain the Philippines was a crucial effort, and many U.S. soldiers fought and died in the Philippines, but with them, were thousands of Filipinos who fought alongside the U.S. and its allies,” said Case.

He said a promise was made to Filipino veterans in 1946 that they would have the right to be U.S. citizens, but it was rescinded.

“We essentially turned our back on them,” said Case.

Case said that injustice was corrected in 1990, when Filipino veterans and their spouses were allowed to become citizens, though many of their children have been waiting more than 15 years for their own citizenship.

Case also stressed the need to provide care to aging WW II veterans. With their unique situation, some Filipino veterans can’t get help from their families.

“The most natural caregivers are children, and yet their children are separated by the Pacific Ocean, and they are in another country,” Case said.

The congressman first introduced the measure to reunify children of Filipino World War II veterans in the prior 108th Congress and reintroduced the bill last year.

“At this point, there is a rapidly dwindling number of World War II veterans who would be affected by this bill, so time is of the essence,” said Case.

Johnny Rabasa, a Garden Island guest columnist, served 30 years in the U.S. Army, and agrees with Case’s efforts to reunite elderly Filipino veterans with their families in the U.S.

“I am in full concurrence with that,” the Vietnam veteran said.

Rabasa, who retired as a command sergeant major, said Memorial Day honors all who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and it is a day to remember veterans who have passed on.

An observance to honor the men and women of the Armed Services who died starts at 9:55 a.m. today at the Kaua‘i Veterans Cemetery in Hanapepe.

The annual Memorial Day services will include the dedication of the Kaua‘i Veterans Memorial Mural, honoring 27 U.S. Marines and one sailor who lost their lives in a helicopter accident in Iraq in January 2005.

Gov. Linda Lingle has ordered state flags at all state and county buildings to be flown at half-staff today, from sunrise to noon to honor those lost, and at full-staff from noon until sunset as a symbol of those still alive.

The governor’s order is in conjunction with President Bush’s order that all U.S. flags be flown at half-staff today. Bush has also asked all Americans to unite in prayer for permanent peace, and to observe a “National Moment of Remembrance” at 3 p.m. Hawai‘i time.

• Cynthia Kaneshiro, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or ckaneshiro@kauaipubco.com.

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