Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony Honoring Filipino Veterans of WWII

WASHINGTON, D.C. Leaders of the U.S. House and Senate held a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony today honoring Filipino veterans who fought in World War II. The following are U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s remarks delivered during the ceremony, which took place in Emancipation Hall, in the U.S. Capitol:

“Today we gather to salute the Filipino people, to pay tribute to extraordinary bravery and sacrifice in the Second World War, to celebrate bonds of friendship and culture that endure today. I was recently struck by a particularly interesting Filipino saying. It speaks of a communal bond, a sense of brotherhood. For the more than 250,000 brave Filipinos who fought for freedom, it spoke of a connection that would ultimately lead to triumph in World War II.

“The saying roughly translates as ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’ It’s a sentiment familiar to many of us. We find similar admonitions in Scripture and as part of a popular song during the American Revolution. Today, it holds a special meaning to me as the motto of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

“Filipino warriors embodied this maxim — and, with grit and determination, they fought together for their home and their people. Sometimes, alongside American GIs. Sometimes, at the fore of unyielding resistance. Through it all, never giving up. That was true from the moment Imperial Japan launched a deadly surprise attack just hours after Pearl Harbor.

“Fighting back was sure to mean hardship for the Filipino people. They fought back anyway. Arrayed against them, the executioner’s pistol. There to break them, the captor’s whip. Awaiting ominously, the world’s most infamous march. The war machine of a vast empire bore down upon this island nation, and yet there the Filipino people were still. Fighting on. Standing together. Never forgetting that division could ultimately mean defeat.

“In victory, they marched on. In defeat, they kept hope close. In resistance, they held aloft the spirit of a people, for all the world to see — unbent, standing tall, enduring still. Thanks to many brave efforts of the Filipino people, Allied forces would go on to win the struggle in the Pacific. The sacrifices they made were crucial not just to their ultimate freedom, but to ours as well. As the son of a soldier who was slated to deploy to the Pacific Theater, I am particularly grateful for the war’s end.

“When General MacArthur was forced to evacuate the Philippines, he made a solemn promise, ‘I shall return.’ Now, 75 years later, the United States is returning to recognize the Filipino veterans of the Second World War.

“With the Gold Medal we present today, we are paying tribute to selfless sacrifice, we are remembering the indomitable spirit of a Pacific people, we are preserving for generations hence this enduring reminder of valor and honor — this powerful symbol of a nation’s gratitude. Let each of us stand united today in saying these two simple, yet powerful, words: Thank you.” 

Related Issues: Tributes, Veterans