Pinoy War Veterans
AP Photo/Aaron Favila

CHICAGO – It’s rare that a Filipino World War II veteran (Filvet) gets a tribute at the US Congress.

Rarer still when the same US congressman, who made the first tribute, pays a second tribute to another Filvet in just a span of more than one year. And it’s rarest if the acclaim comes from a Republican.

Rep. Joseph J. Heck (Nevada-3) stood up last March 8 during a session of the US House of Representatives to pay tribute for 1:53 minutes on the passing of Filipino World War II veteran Augusto R. Oppus, who died of stroke at age 87 last March 5.

[box type=”default” size=”large”] 10 of the forgotten soldiers die every day — solon [/box]Heck, a member of the armed services committee, said, “I come to the floor today, saddened by the news of the passing of World War II veteran and Las Vegas (Nevada) resident, Augusto Oppus.

“He was part of a community of denied Filipino veterans. Born on Aug. 28, 1924, Oppus entered the US military service in March 1945 and trained as a military police attached to the 12th military company and was honorably discharged in 1946.

“While he enjoyed a happy and healthy life following the war, he did not earn full recognition and full service and access to military benefits he rightfully earned.”

Heck said on Feb. 18, 1946, US President Harry Truman signed the Rescission Acts into law. This law denied benefits to more than 200,000 Filipino veterans, who served before July 1946, promised to them five years prior by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

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He said the men and women, who joined the war before 1946, put their lives on the line for the Allied cause and “helped us win the war in the Pacific. Yet due to technicality, they are not offered the recognition they deserve.”

Heck said, “With every day that passes, it is estimated that 10 of these forgotten soldiers die having received no answer or recognition from the government.

“My district is home to four remaining veterans, including Francisco Cedula, who died last year. I am eternally thankful to their services.”

On Feb. 22nd last year, Rep. Heck rose for the first time on the floor of Congress and paid tribute for 2:43 minutes to Filipino World War II veteran, Cmdr. Francisco“Frank” Cedula, who died on Feb. 2, 2011 at 88. Cedula was the only survivor of the Battle of (Barangay) Piis, known as Kilometer 135 in Lucban, Quezon Province, Philippines.

Heck said last year that “at least three Filipino WW II veterans passed away without seeing the fruits of their supreme sacrifice: the culmination of America’s promise for official recognition and full benefits equity for their courage and heroic exploits during the war. The promise, made by America, has been languishing in the past 60 years.”

A member of the Filipino-American Veterans of Nevada (FAV-NV), Cedula wrote two books, “WWII Filipino Veterans: An Endangered Human Specie,” and a sequel, “Denial and Restitution by America,” which thanked the US Congress for approving the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill subsumed in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed by President Obama in 2009.

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In the first book, Mr. Cedula wrote vividly “the scene of the bloody massacre, where bodies of the more than 100 Filipino and American soldiers, laid scattered all over the place at Kilometer 135. He was the lone survivor of that battle. He was bayoneted four times and left for dead and he could not ever forget the ghastly scene.”

Before he died, Cedula returned to the Philippines to secure funding from the Philippine government for the construction of Kilometer 135 Memorial Shrine, a cenotaph to the Battle of Barangay Piis.

Ceasar Elpidio, president and founder of the Filipino American Veterans of Nevada (FAVN), said unlike Oppus, Cedula “was one of the lucky ones to be recognized and compensated” from the ARRA.