Honoring our war heroes

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By Atty. Ignacio R. Bunye

Speaking Out

Sunday, April 13, 2014


WHEN I was growing up, my favorite World War II hero was Audie Murphy. A most underrated soldier at the time of his enlistment, Murphy was initially rejected because he was under-height, underweight and underage. He emerged as the most decorated hero by the end of the war.

Murphy earned not only the Medal of Honor but also practically all the other medals the United States and other allied countries could confer.

At Mount Samat, focal site of our yearly Araw ng Kagitingan, a relief celebrates the lone Filipino Medal of Honor awardee in the battle of Bataan. Sgt. Jose Calugas, a native of Iloilo, was a member of the Philippine Scout. Although Calugas had training in artillery, on that fateful day of January 16, 1942, Calugas was assigned on KP or “kitchen patrol.” In other words, he was cook for the day.

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When the fighting started, an adjoining battery position was silenced by enemy fire, killing or wounding all the cannoneers. The cook set aside pots and pans and ran 1,000 yards under heavy fire to the embattled gun position. There, Calugas organized a volunteer squad, which placed the gun back in commission and fired effectively against the enemy. When the fighting stopped, Calugas, seemingly unmindful of what he had just done, simply went back to kitchen duty.

Calugas was recommended for the Medal of Honor. But he had to wait until the end of the war because when Bataan fell, Calugas was among the thousands who were forced into the Death March.

Bataan and other battle grounds produced at least 44 other Filipino heroes who received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest US military decoration. Among the Distinguished Service Cross recipients were Gen. Vicente Lim, Gen. Mateo Capinpin, Col. Jesus Villamor, Alfredo Santos, Macario Peralta and Ruperto Kangleon. Villamor also later received the Philippine Medal of Valor from President Ramon Magsaysay.

Three military camps are now named after Lim, Capinpin and Villamor, respectively. Alfredo Santos later became AFP Chief of Staff. Peralta became Secretary of National Defense. Ruperto Kangleon became Secretary of National Defense and later, Senator. General Lim is also honored in the P1,000 bill.

Two recent events provide a justification to review the heroic acts of our gallant soldiers.

Both President Clinton and President Obama have separately acknowledged that deserving heroes might have been unjustifiably passed over in the selection of Medal of Honor awardees because of racial bias.

In 2000, President Clinton corrected an injustice to 19 servicemen of Japanese ancestry who fought in WWII by upgrading their Distinguished Service Cross to Medal of Honor. Among them was the late former Senator Dan Inouye of Hawaii (a very good friend of the Philippines.)

Just last March 14, President Obama upgraded to Medal of Honor the previous Distinguished Service Cross awards of 24 soldiers of either Jewish or Hispanic descent. The honorees were among those who fought either in World War II, or the Korean War or the Vietnam War.

Will there be a similar review for Filipinos soldiers who fought shoulder to shoulder with the Americans in Bataan, Corregidor, Leyte, Lingayen and Manila?

It all depends how much persuasion President PNoy, Ambassador Albert Del Rosario and Secretary Voltaire Gazmin can exert on our “staunchest ally.” But it will not be as simple as that. A US congressional act is still needed to trigger the upgrade of our heroes.

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In the early 1990s when Muntinlupa was still reeling from the effects of a devastating typhoon, Don Emilio Yap donated P1 million for the relief of typhoon victims. And we did not even have to ask him for it. Once more, from Muntinlupenos, thank you Don Emilio. Rest well.

Note: For feedback, you may email us at totingbunye2000@gmail.com.

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