PALO, LEYTE – Surviving World War II veterans in Eastern Visayas will be conferred with the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal as one of the highlights in the commemoration of the 78th Leyte Gulf Landings on October 20, 2022.

Nenita Brazil, head of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) in Eastern Visayas, said all the 33 living war veterans in the region would be conferred with the medal in recognition of their sacrifices, bravery and heroism displayed during World War II.

“We decided to confer the medal this year, especially because their number is getting smaller every year,” she said.

Brazil said the awarding of medals has long been planned but other regions were able to express their desire ahead. “There is a schedule set and the process is very long,” she added.

Among those that will be honored with the medal is Eduardo Bermudo, a member of the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) from Tacloban City. The 32 others were recognized members of guerilla groups that fought side-by-side with the American soldiers during the war.

During the commemoration of the Leyte Gulf Landings in 2020, there were still 92 surviving veterans. The number went down to 48 in 2021 and further decreased to 33 this year. The oldest surviving war veteran is 101 years old from Burauen, Leyte while the youngest is 93 years old from Southern Leyte.

“Most of those who died passed away due to old age while a few were due to complications caused by COVID-19,” Brazil said.

The U.S. Congressional Gold Medal is considered a breakthrough recognition granted to Filipino World War II veterans when President Barack Obama signed on December 16, 2016 the ‘Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal (CGM)’ Act.

The law collective awards a Congressional Gold Medal (CGM) to the Filipino veterans of World War II. Accordingly, the medal is the highest civilian honor, for the distinguished achievements and contributions for the United States during World War II.

Brazil said the award, which will be conferred by the representative of the US Embassy in Manila who will be attending the Leyte Gulf Landings commemoration, will just be a medal with no monetary gift included.

“We timed this specifically since there will be a representative from the US Embassy that will be attending the Leyte Landing Commemoration,” she said.

Brazil said the same distinction will also be awarded posthumously to those who have already passed away but the priority now for the awarding of medals is for the living veterans. The first awarding of the CGM was held on October 25, 2017 in Washington D.C. for US-based Filipino veterans. By Elmer Recuerdo (EV Mail September 19-25, 2022 issue)