MANILA - A total of 51 Filipino World War II veterans posthumously received on Tuesday the prestigious US Congressional Gold Medal Award for their gallantry during the war in defense of freedom and democracy.

During the awarding ceremony at the AFP Officers Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim personally handed the award to the sons or daughters of Filipino war veterans who had passed away years back.

This brought to 335 as of Nov. 26, 2019 the total number of Filipino WWII veterans who are recipients of the medal since the first awarding was made at the Emancipation Hall, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., on Oct. 25, 2017.

In his speech, Kim said the medal is “presented by the U.S. Congress to individuals whose contributions and achievements impact American history.”

“Our Filipino veterans went above and beyond to shape history. I believe their selfless acts and bravery forged a special bond between our countries which continues today in our vibrant and strong friendship, partnership, and alliance,” he added.

He said the United States “is deeply grateful for the heroism of our Filipino veterans.”

Filipino and American soldiers fought side by side against the Japanese invaders during World War II.

In the fighting, the Filipinos demonstrated their bravery and heroism against all odds.

"Though most of them (veterans) are not present anymore, their memories and sacrifices will not be forgotten. Their stories of valor and loyalty will always be etched in our hearts. Their sacrifices for freedom will always be cherished," Kim said.

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary Raul Caballes, deputy administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), said the awarding of the prestigious US Congressional Medal “is a fitting tribute to our veterans whose courage and selfless acts of service became the very foundation of our country’s freedom.”

Caballes said the awarding “is a long-awaited recognition our veterans rightly deserve.”

It took over seven decades before the Filipino veterans got the honor and recognition they deserve for bravery and heroism in World War II.

“It was indeed a long and tedious journey before our veterans were aptly recognized by the US government as they made efforts to correct the Rescission Act of 1946 which downgraded the status of Filipino veterans,” Caballes said.

He said the Congressional Gold Medal award is “more than an acknowledgment of the service of the Filipino veterans (which) is the highest expression of gratitude given by the US government for the efforts and heroic deeds of our veterans.” (PNA)