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(© 2017 Journal GlobaLinks)

When God closes one door, He opens another.
                                                           — Isaiah 22:22

CHICAGO (JGL) — After many years of frustrations by the Filipino veterans who could not find their names in the rolls of the National Personnel Records Center in St.

Louis, Missouri, this group of veterans might have found some silver lining at the end of a long tunnel.

They were even more frustrated when the VA (U.S.Department of Veterans Affair) did not recognize them even if their names were listed in the roster of the U.S. Army and much more the Philippine Armed Forces records.

According to the "HQ Philippines Command, U.S. Army Recognition Program of Philippine Guerillas, ca. 1949" report, declassified by President Obama that was taken from National Archives Records Administration (NARA), 222 boxes of official guerrilla records were delivered to chief, Organizational Records Branch of  the Records Administration Center in St. Louis, Missouri, on Oct. 1948.

But the claims of the Filvets were exacerbated by the infamous July 12, 1973 disastrous fire at the NPRC that destroyed approximately 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files that included files of Filipino veterans, who were denied benefits as a result because their names are not reflected in the NPRC records.


MR. DEAN AQUILINO S. DELEN (third from left) suddenly became very unpopular to his friends in San Francisco, California when he was seen shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan for receiving the Congressional Gold Medal replica on Oct. 26, 2017 in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Mr. Celestino Almeda is at extreme left. (JGL Photograb from Speaker.Gov website)


A group led by retired Filipino American U.S. General Antonio Taguba, who leads the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP), found out that some of the names that could not be found at the NPRC had turned up at the National Archives Records Administration (NARA), the mother unit of the NPRC, based in Washington, D.C.

The NARA is an independent agency of the United States government charged with preserving and documenting government and historical records and with increasing public access to those documents, which comprise the National Archives. It is officially responsible for maintaining and publishing the legally authentic and authoritative copies of acts of Congress, presidential proclamations and executive orders, and federal regulations. The NARA also transmits votes of the Electoral College to Congress.


THIS MASSIVE BUILDING of the National Archives Records Administration (NARA) behind this reporter, the mother office of the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis, Missouri, will now be a new source where Filipino Veterans can find their names if they served during WW II in case their names could not be located at the NPRC. NARA is located in Washington, DC. (JGL Selfiephoto by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)

One of those names they found was that of Mr. Dean Aquilino Suarez Delen, who like Mr. Celestino Almeda and 4,200 others, who have appealed their cases because their names were not found at the NPRC, “were denied benefits under FVEC (Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation) ostensibly because of “insufficient proof of military service,” according to Mr. Jon Melegrito, spokesman of FilVetREP.

“FilVetREP and other advocacy groups, like the ACFV (American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, Inc. (Arlington, VA) and NNVE (National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity), have maintained all along that the U.S. Army's records are themselves flawed and incomplete,” added  Mr. Melegrito, a librarian by profession and an officer of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) based in Washington, D.C.


MR. DEAN AQUILINO S. DELEN (fourth from right) is shown here with fellow Filipino World War II veterans proudly displaying the replicas of the Congressional Gold Medal at Daly City, California recently. The replica costs $52. At extreme right is Mr. Ago Pedalizo, a human rights advocate. (Photo courtesy of Rudy Ascercion)

Mr. Melegrito said, “Mr. Almeda's vindication is evidence of this. If the VA ruled that Mr. Almeda is indeed a US Veteran and entitled to benefits, then Mr. Delen and the 4,200 have a strong case to make that they have been unfairly treated.”


Mr. Almeda was the 100-year-old veteran, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues when U.S. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan led in the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal at the Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. last Oct. 26.


THIS BUILDING OF the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis, Missouri will no longer be the source of last resort for the Filipinos desperately looking for their names as recognized veterans of World War II. (Photo from Wikipedia)

Mr. Melegrito explained, “In Mr. Delen's case, his name was mistakenly listed at NARA as "Felino" not "Aquilino." Because of technicalities like this, his appeal was dismissed. But Gen. Taguba researched Mr. Delen's own record thoroughly at NARA and found that he is indeed a member of the Recognized Guerrillas, and is therefore entitled not only to benefits, but to the Congressional Gold Medal award.”


SECRETARY OF VETERANS Affairs David J. Shulkin, M.D., has agreed to review the appeals of Mr. Dean Aquilino S. Delen and 4,200 other Filipino World War II veterans, whose names could not be located at the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis, Missouri by recognizing Mr. Celestino Almeda as a legitimate WW II veterans and thus granting him the Congressional Gold Medal replica on Oct. 26, 2017 at the presentation of the CGM in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Mr. Almeda will also receive the $15,000 veterans’ benefit. (JGL Photograb from Speaker.Gov website)

Soon after the face of the nameless Mr. Delen was flashed on national television during the CGM presentation, one of his supporters who futilly helped him inquire from the NPRC of being listed only to be denied was taken aback when he saw Mr. Delen being congratulated by House Speaker Paul Ryan for receiving a replica of the CGM.

In her brief remarks, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Representative of District 12 in California that covers San Francisco, said, “It gives me special pride to welcome Aquilino (Delen) and his daughter Sonda come out of San Francisco” to attend the ceremony. Mr. Delen is a resident of San Francisco.

Rudy Asercion, a community leader in San Francisco, told this reporter, “No one here knew he (Mr. Delen) was going to (Washington) DC. Everyone was flabbergasted when they saw him take center stage during the CGM ceremony. To date, he has not received the $15K from the VA (Department of Veteran Affairs).”

Mr. Asercion added, that after Mr. Delen’s veterans benefit application was denied, “I did not file another appeal for Mr. Delen after I overheard him say that he continued teaching school during the war.”


Mr. Asercion, also an official of the National Federation of Filipino American Assocations (NaFFAA), added, “The WWII veterans here told me they feel they have been dishonored by awarding the CGM to someone they all know has not proven his claim as a WWII veteran. This may be a classic case of Stolen Valor.”

Mr. Delen was 16 years old when World War II broke out. A native of Batangas City in the Philippines, Mr. Delen joined the Batangas Town Guerrilla (FAITH).

But when he applied for Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation with the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2010, his application was denied because VA was advised by the National Personnel Records Center “that you had ‘no service as a member of the Philippine Commonwealth Army, including the recognized guerillas, in the service of the United States Armed Forces.”

This reporter tried to call the 92-year-old Mr. Delen twice for comment but there was no option to leave a message on his phone, prompting this reporter to inquire from Mr. Melegrito.

During the CGM presentation, VA Secretary David Shulkin, said, "GOOD MORNING, MR. ALMEDA, that’s a very hard act to follow. I’m not even gonna try.


RUDY ASERCION (right, seated) is shown here with his fellow San Francisco, California resident and seatmate, Atty. Rodel Rodis, before the start of their debate during 12th National Empowerment Conference of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) last Aug. 6, 2016 at Valley Forge, Pennysylvania. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)

"But you know, this ceremony today really brings me deep emotion for those veterans who are here with us today and their families.

“But there are so many who are absent here today and many who died for the fight for freedom and the speakers before me are great leadership really expressed beautifully the immense sacrifices of these heroes.

“I join them in my deep thanks for the sacrifices that they made in defense of freedom. You waited a long time for this recognition for this heroism incurred and you are remarkable warriors and are so deserving of the Congressional Gold Medal.


“In 1865, President Lincoln charged us to care for those who have borne the battle. It’s a noble mission, a commitment, it’s a promise to care for all who served this nation. One way that we do that at the VA is by providing veterans the benefits and services they earned and deserved.

"And earlier this week, when I learned Mr. Almeda’s long battle with the Department of Veterans Affairs to get the benefit he earned as a result of his services in World War II, when I heard the story of Mr. Almeda, I directed my staff this week to review his records and I decided that’s it’s about time to fix the situation.


RETIRED FILIPINO American U.S. Gen. Antonio Taguba is shown here while he was attending the 12th National Empowerment Conference of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) last Aug. 5, 2016 at Valley Forge, Pennysylvania. Mr. Taguba, whose father was also a Filipino WW II veteran, was there to advocate for the passage of the bill for the Congressional Gold Medal for Filipino World War II veterans. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)

“Mr. Almeda 70 years was long enough for you to wait. So, we’ve now authorized to pay Mr. Almeda $15,000 in acknowledgement for his service and that it took us a long enough time to do that. But more importantly than giving you the money that you  deserved and fought for, we do thank you for your service, we owe you our greatest gratitude for what you have done for our country.

"That decision, like all VA decisions should be, was grounded on the interest of veterans. We are principle-based institution, principle-dictated that we honor Mr. Almeda. Honoring veterans is why we are here this morning. President Lincoln will be proud. Thank you very much. Thank you for your service." (Contact reporter: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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