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Thursday, April 14, 2005
Politicians honor local survivor of Bataan Death March

After three days of marching in the Philippines sun without food and water, Jesus Groyon could barely trudge on, but he feared bayonets and swords carried by his Japanese captors who stabbed to death those who fell.

Although 10,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war died along the 63-mile route that started on April 9, 1942. Groyon and five other Chicago area Filipino veterans were among those who survived. But at 86 years old, Groyon, of Alsip, may not live long enough to see the United States restore Filipino soldiers status as active veterans, rescinded by Congress in 1946.

On Saturday -- the 63rd anniversary of the Bataan Death March-- Groyon and other march survivors were honored by Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and city,county and state officials who hope to draw attention to their plight.

FDR Pledged Benefits

"These soldiers are not receiving their share of benefits," Quinn told a gathering of several hundred Filipino-Americans. "They are in their 70's and 80's and deserve what they were promised during the World War II".

On Thursday, the Illinois House passed a resolution urging Congress to award World War II Filipino veterans the benefits they were pledged by President Franklin Roosevelt. More than 200,000 Filipino soldiers were drafted to serve with U.S. soldiers in defending the Philippines.

For 60 years, Filipino veterans have been fighting to have those rights restored. In the last 15 years, some benefits have been reinstated.

About 8,000 Filipino verterans live in the United States but are not eligible for pensions and some disability from the Department of Veterans Affairs.Many survive on welfare and Social Security supplemntal income checks. Only last year were Filipino veterans allowed into the VA health care system.

Two bills in the U.S. House and Senate would restore veterans status and benefits to Filipino veterans, but similar bills have failed in the past and some are doubt this year's efforts, will be any different.

"There's no money", said George Mulvaney, the veterans coordinator for the Filipino-Americans of Illinois. "These men have survived the infamous Bataan Death March only to be met with Congress Debt March".

Mulvaney said that only when enough Filipino veterans die and Congress believes it is feasible will Filipinos receive their due.

"In five years, only half of them will be around. They are going to start dying at a rate of two and three a day," Mulvaney said.

After Saturday's honor ceremony, Groyon, who walks with a cane, and several other Filipino veterans and their families made their way to the Bataan Corregidor Bridge at State and Wacker. Although dedicated in 1949 to the memory of Chicagoans killed in the Bataan March, the bridge was rededicated in 1998 to Filipino soldiers who also lost their lives.

Several crowded around the two plaques commemorating the different dedications and remarked that, like the Filipino veterans bill, recognition of Filipino soldiers deaths at Bataan is long overdue.

(abstracted from CHICSUNTIMES/ Cheryl l. Reed/ Staff Reporter)
posted by infraternam meam @ 1:57 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
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About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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