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Second Class Veterans

The Struggle of the Filipino Vets

New America Media, Photo Essay, Rick Rocamora Posted: Feb 21, 2009

Editor's Note: In their youth, Filipino soldiers fought alongside American GIs in some of the bloodiest battles of World War II, defending the Philippines from the Japanese military and enduring the Bataan Death March. Their legendary courage was decisive in the U.S. victory in the war in the Pacific. For their bravery, they were promised a soldiers due: veterans benefits and a pension in thanks from a grateful nation.

But today, these valiant veterans live in poverty and obscurity in tenement hotels, eating at soup kitchens, and waiting still waiting for their military pensions. Now in their 80s and 90s, they are fighting again, this time in Congress for the Filipino Veterans Equity Act. Many of their comrades have already died, hoping to see the day the U.S. government would make good on its promise.

Photographer Rick Rocamora has documented the lives of the Filipino veterans, still clinging to hard-won medals, military commendations and scraps of uniforms as they make their way in San Franciscos toughest neighborhoods. Rocamoras deep connection to the veterans allows a rare view into their difficult but always dignified lives, and creates a poignant story of pain, persistence and hope.

The stimulus bill that President Barack Obama signed into law last Tuesday includes the authorization of a $198-million benefits package for Filipinos who fought under the U.S. flag in World War II. It will come to between $9000 to $15,000 per veteran after a 62-year wait.

RICK ROCAMORA has won awards for his images and picture stories from Asian American Journalist Association, SF Bay Area Press Photographers Association, New California Media, Media Alliance; he was awarded a California Arts Council Art Fellowship and a Local Bay Area Heroes Award from KQED and Union Bank of California for his work about Filipino WW II Veterans.His book about Filipino WWII veterans, "America's Second-Class Veterans" is scheduled for publication before the end of 2008.

Related Articles:

Belated Pay For Filipino WWII Vets a Bittersweet Victory

Filipinos Celebrate Inaugural, Ask Obama For Veterans Equity

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