Bidding Farewell to Two Members of the Las Vegas Mighty Fiveby Representative Joseph J. Heck
Posted on 2013-02-05
HECK of Nevada. Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor today to bid a
solemn and respectful farewell to Mr. Romeo Barreras and Mr. Silverio
Cuaresma. Messrs. Barreras and Cuaresma were residents of southern
Nevada and members of the Las Vegas Mighty Five, a group of Filipino
American World War II veterans denied benefits and recognition for
their service to the United States.
Romeo Barreras volunteered for the Philippine Army at age 17 and served with the infantry as a Guerrilla fighter. He earned a Purple Heart for wounds sustained in action and received an honorable discharge for his service to both the Republic of the Philippines and the United States. Romeo passed away last month at the age of 85.
Silverio Cuaresma was a guerrilla intelligence officer who served under Army Colonel Edwin Ramsey in the 26th calvary. It was this unit that made the last horse charge in cavalry history on January 16, 1942. After his discharge, Silverio took up the cause of his fellow denied veterans and fought for their compensation ever since. That fight ended two weeks ago in Las Vegas. Silverio Cuaresma was 100 years old.
They, along with their countrymen, fought and in many instances died under the command of American troops in the Pacific theater of World War II. After helping the Allies win the war in the Pacific, many of these veterans began seeking the benefits promised to them by President Franklin Roosevelt. But on February 18, 1946, President Harry S. Truman signed the Rescission Act of 1946 into law, which denied over 200,000 Filipino World War II veterans the benefits promised to them just five years earlier by President Roosevelt.
Congress finally acknowledged the dedicated service of many of these denied veterans when it established the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund in 2009. But many of these veterans, as many as 24,000, still have not received compensation due to bureaucratic hurdles and paperwork shuffles over the types of records they hold verifying their service.
The Mighty Five is now reduced to two with the passing of Romeo and Silverio. We lost Augusto Oppus last year as well. I fear many more will pass without ever obtaining the recognition they deserve if this body does not act to remove the barriers preventing these veterans from receiving the benefits they have earned.
Yesterday, I introduced legislation to ensure that the remainder of the Mighty Five and denied Filipino veterans everywhere finally receive the benefits promised to them so many years ago.
My bill, Mr. Speaker, is very simple. It directs the Department of the Army to certify the service of any Filipino World War II veteran whose name appears on the Approved Revised Reconstructed Guerrilla Roster or has certified documentation from the U.S. Army or Philippine Government attesting to their service.
Simply put, these men fought so that the Allies could defeat the Japanese in the Pacific. If they can show they fought, let's fulfill our promise to them so they can live out their years knowing that the United States has officially recognized their service.
I have met with the Mighty Five many times in Las Vegas. All they want is to be recognized. It's not about the money to them. They want to know that their service was appreciated, that their sacrifices did not go unnoticed.
As I attended Lieutenant Cuaresma's funeral last week, no flag draped his casket, no honor guard was present, and there was no playing of ``Taps.'' There was no official recognition of his dedicated military service. And that, Mr. Speaker, was wrong.
I would like to thank my friends and brother veterans, Romeo and Silverio, for their service to our country. Their passion and dedication to this cause will be missed. Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to join me in fighting to ensure these honorable World War II veterans are appropriately recognized.