November 11 is the Veterans Day to honor over 25 million military veterans in the U.S. In other countries, Nov. 11 is called Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in observance of the signing of the Armistice Treaty hurriedly signed between the Allies (Russian Empire, British Empire, France, Italy, U.S.) and Germany to end World War I. Allied Commander-in-Chief Marshall Ferdinand Foch and Germany representative Matthias Erzberger were principal signatories.
It was the 28th US President Woodrow Wilson who first proclaimed an Armistice Day dedicated to the cause of world peace. It was change to "All" Veterans Day in 1954, when Al King, a shoe vendor of Emporia, Kansas, campaigned to include all other military veterans. The 34th US President Dwight David Eisenhower who signed the name change to Veterans Day into law on May 26, 1954.
As US celebrate "the eleventh of the eleventh of the eleventh", I cannot help but remember my visit to 6 Filipino WW II veteran couples, who migrated to southern California after the 42nd President William Jefferson Blythe Clinton signed a law granting US citizenship to Filipino war veterans. (Of the 200,000 Filipinos, who responded to the 1941 call of the 32nd US President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to help the Americans preserve peace and democracy in the Philippines, more than 17,000 war veterans came to US hoping that they would be recognized and treated fairly in terms of rights and benefits. Unfortunately, this has never happened.) These 6 Filipino veteran couples, whom our church visited in 1995, have been living in a small one-room studio, because the $500.00 pension benefit (a fraction of what the non-Filipino veterans have been receiving)was not sufficient to rent a one-bedroom apartment. So, imagine a room partitioned with curtains to give each couple their much-needed privacy. Imagine these couples with very little money left for their food, because they have to send money to their families in the Philippines, most likely, to pay the money they loaned to migrate. Tell me where the parity right lies.
The Filipino-American war veterans have been trying to demand equal rights since then. Some of them went on a hunger strike, some chained themselves to the fence of the White House and to the monument of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Los Angeles in 1997 in order to be heard. Unfortunately, they still are fighting for their rights until now.
Currently, there is a bill known as "the Veterans Benefit Enhancement Act" (S-1513) in the US Congress. It is assumed that the bill is on the verge of natural death, because many US representatives are playing deaf and dumb. Some of them consider that Filipino war veterans are not entitled to equal benefits, because they were mustered during World War II to defend their own country. This argument is blatant lie. Philippines was still an American colony during World War II. These Filipino war veterans were fighting for the interest of the American government, not for the Philippines. It was only on July 4, 1946, when Philippine was formally proclaimed as a Republic. Don't you think they ought to have that parity rights that they have been demanding as promised by the 33rd US President Harry S. Truman that "these surviving Filipino World War II veterans will received equal treatment as American veterans?
I just hope that the US Congress and Senate will open their eyes and ears to realize the tough living condition of the Filipino-American war veterans.
In the spirit of Veterans Day, I salute the war veterans, particularly those who still are fighting for their rights to be heard.