Veterans denounce desecration

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014


EVERY year, 67 year old US Navy veteran Master Chief Petty Officer Hugo William Prill goes back to his native Baguio from Hawaii, his second home after retiring as a supervisor-diver in the Asia Pacific US Navy fleet.

His yearly trip back to Baguio however turns disheartening, he said, as the two World War II cemeteries at Camp John Hay where his father and mother were buried in the 60's have been continuously desecrated.

From more than 200 wooden white crosses that once lie at Cemetery I along Loakan Road, Prill shrugs in disbelief as only a single cross now stands.

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“Their sacrifices for freedom were forgotten. Worse, were even bastardized because they did not respect the grave!” They wiped out the grave, to say the least, the veteran said in further dismay,’ added Prill.

Instead of the wooden crosses, the hill-cemetery has been planted with saplings of coffee and others. “Why do they do this?”, said Prill, a native of Bontoc in Mountain Province who joined the US Navy in 1964 and retired in 1993.

His father, William and mother Martha lie in Cemetery II, farther up south along Loakan Road. Cemetery II is more kept, at least, with upkeeping done by World War II vets. It’s stone and grill entrance is at least painted paling white. Most white crosses also no longer sit there, only a square foot each of cement where some 491 veterans’ names were engraved.

William Prill fought in many foreign wars – Spanish American, Philippine-American, Boxer Rebellion in China and World War I. He died in May 21, 1949 when son Hugo William was still 3.

The brave veteran’s wife, Hugo’s mother -- Martha died in 1993.

They could have been made into a historical tourism site, Prill said. But seemingly, nobody cares anymore, he said, obviously pointing fingers to local officials and even those managing the former US rest-and-recreation facility.

Worse, Prill blurts out, those responsible even allow cows grazing on these cemeteries. “If only veterans down there could talk,” he spurts out in disgust.

But the former US Navy officer who went back to the graves of the veterans midday Tuesday at Camp John Hay is not losing any hope. “I might get their ears to revisit how we treat heroes,” he said.

Going back to Hawaii this week, Prill said, he would still keep coming back to see the grave of his father and mother and the countless ‘heroes’ of the past wars to bring back to Filipinos eyes history, a glorious history of sacrifice in the name of freedom and liberty, the veteran said. (Ace Alegre)

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 06, 2014.

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