Remembering Our Veterans on the 70th Anniversary of WWII
Thursday, September 3, 2015
Posted by: Nick Lee
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team in France, 1944 (Photo:Creative Commons)
Today, on the 70th anniversary of the official end of WWII, OCA proudly remembers the thousands of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander service men and women who served with honor and distinction in spite of the discrimination they experienced before and after their service.
During WWII, more than 20,000 Japanese Americans served in combat or in military intelligence, including the famed 442nd that remains the most decorated unit in US history. This heroism occurred against the backdrop of the forced relocation of 120,000 Japanese Americans, including many of the families of those who served. They were held for nearly four years in isolated concentration camps, with their property confiscated and their former lives and dreams shattered. It took our government more than 40 years after the war, for it to acknowledge the fundamental injustice of internment, as well as issue reparations for lost property.
More than 260,000 Filipinos also fought under the American flag during WWII. Yet, when these brave Filipinos returned from the war, we repaid their sacrifice by breaking our promise to provide American citizenship to their families and allow them to be reunited in the States. As these veterans started to age and needed their families to provide care, US immigration made their family members in the Philippines wait for decades to get a visa. Today, there are 2,000 eligible veterans still waiting for justice and for America to keep its wartime promise. 70 years later, the President has finally instructed the Department of Homeland Security to expedite the visa process for these family members, so that these veterans may enjoy a small amount of peace in their final years.
Despite America’s history of failing to recognize the military contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, many members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community continue to build on the proud legacy of military service that began in earnest during the Civil War and continued in WWII. However, what is troubling is that there still exists an ugly contrast between the loyalty and heroism of our soldiers and the injustice they experience today. Chinese American Army Private Danny Chen and Marine Lance Corporal Harry Lew signed up to fight for their country, but instead found a hotbed of race-based hazing, harassment, and abuse, which ultimately caused their deaths.
Another great injustice still taking place is the treatment of American Samoan and Guamanian veterans when they return home. Despite the fact that nearly one in eight adults in these US territories have served in the armed forces, they experienced one of the lowest per veteran rates of investment in their medical care in the entirety of America. Receiving psychiatric services to treat PTSD sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan can be nearly impossible on the island, and the veterans who served so proudly have been, and continue to be, left behind by our veterans care system.
As we celebrate the sacrifices made by those who fought in WWII, we must renew our commitment to the veterans from all the conflicts our nation has endured. We must fight to make sure that Filipino veterans are actually reunited with their families, eliminate hazing from our military, and revitalize the services that American Samoan and Guamanian service men and women are provided. We must now protect those who have protected us, in honor of the loyalty and courage they displayed, even in the face of discrimination.
Michael W. Kwan
OCA National President