Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 6897, the Filipino Veterans Equity Act, and urge my colleagues to join last year's 116 cosponsors who felt strongly about the need for us to finally move forward and to act in a moral way.
I want to acknowledge Chairman Filner for his leadership on bringing this legislation before us today. He has pleaded with all of us, Members of Congress, to do the right thing.
Being an American is more than standing up on Memorial Day and saluting the flag. Being American is also one who is willing to take the responsibility for those who have enabled us to have that freedom, and Mr. Filner has never hesitated in my short 1 year of being here. He has constantly pleaded for us to finally make this right.
At the end of World War II, President Harry Truman stated it was a moral obligation of our Nation to look at the welfare of Filipino veterans. Well, here we are today in this great, incredible building, the House of Representatives, where our Nation has an opportunity, finally, a long overdue process, to fulfill our moral obligation.
Indeed, many would not be enjoying the freedoms that we have today if it were not for the courageous efforts of those 470,000 Filipino veterans that answered the call during World War II.
As a Nation, some tend to measure our war heroes based on the suffering. They suffered as well. I am not just giving a speech and reciting history. I have a large Filipino population in my district and it is without hesitation that they stand side by side on Memorial Day, Armed Services Day, and really have a desire for us to recognize the incredible commitment that they did. In fact, 60,000 Filipino soldiers were forced to march 65 miles without food, water and medicine while they were being bayonetted and killed. They are our first class heroes, those who provided a service and didn't hesitate to do so.
Back in 1946, General Omar Bradley, the U.S. Administrator of Veterans' Affairs, put it best when he said ``the service of the Filipino Commonwealth Army in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II has met the definition of a U.S. veteran.'' Has met the definition of a U.S. veteran.
In my district, as I said, I have numerous Filipino veterans who in their golden years, we are not talking about, as our chairman said, 62 years ago. These are people who, men, women, children, have failed to have adequate benefits for a work that they did. Isn't that what this Congress is all about? That's what I believe it is about.
So, Madam Speaker, I join Chairman Filner and all of us who look forward to passing finally this resolution, this resolution which will bring back not a stain in America but one we can look back and say yes, for those who helped us to have freedom, we recognize that and we are willing to do the right thing.
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Mr. Stearns, we are not just talking about people in the Philippines. We are talking about people who live in Carson, California, residents of mine, people who do not have health care benefits, people who do not have adequate pay for the work that they do. If we can spend billions of dollars, as will be coming before this House, $700 billion to assist corporations of people who made millions of dollars, surely we can issue a check for work that has been done. All the more reason why they need the money today, because these are real people. These are not corporations. These are not presidents. These are people who are surviving on paychecks of $500 and $600 a month.