I have always felt a powerful personal connection to the people of the Philippines, stemming from my time in the Navy.
Tens of thousands of Filipinos have become US citizens through service in our Navy, and Filipino-Americans have a strong history of naval service as well. One such leader was my Naval Academy roommate, Rear Admiral Victorino Mercado. Vic retired yesterday, after three years as a key leader in the Pacific.
During my service, I was stationed in Philippines -seeing this amazing country, people and culture first-hand. So, it will come as no surprise that I jumped at the chance to honor World War II Filipino veterans with Congressional Gold Medals at the Asia Pacific Cultural Center last weekend.
In preparation for my remarks to the audience, I did some research on Filipino veterans – and was astounded by a particular story.
As you may know, the Silver Star is the third-highest honor awarded for gallantry in the U.S. Armed Forces. Previous recipients have included Audie Murphy, pilot Chuck Yeager, and General Norman Schwartzkopf.
But, few people have heard of another Silver Star recipient – Magdalena Leones. She was a Filipina that served as a guerrilla soldier under U.S. command in World War II.
In her early 20’s, Magdalena had a devout faith and was working in a mission in the mountains when the war broke out. After witnessing the brutality of the Japanese occupying army, she could not stand idly by while her community suffered. She joined the Philippine-American military effort, becoming a corporal in the U.S. Army.
Magdalena was part of why General Douglas MacArthur could return. She was able to gather the parts needed to make a radio that passed critical intelligence to the Allies, which in turn led to the invasions at Leyte and the re-taking of the Philippines. Amazingly, she was captured three times, but each time was able to escape.
The Army awarded the Silver Cross to Magdalena Leones on October 22, 1945.
The citation read: “For gallantry in action at Luzon, Philippine Islands, from 27 February to 26 September 1944. During the period cited, Corporal Leones repeatedly risked her life to carry important intelligence data, vital radio parts and medical supplies through heavily garrisoned enemy-held territory.”
“Although she knew that detection by the enemy would result in torture and execution, Corporal Leones fearlessly continued her perilous missions between guerrilla forces throughout Luzon with notable success. Through her intrepidity and skill as a special agent, Corporal Leones contributed materially to the early liberation of the Philippines.”
Leones is part of a small group of women – and the only Filipina – to receive this prestigious award for heroism. Sadly, she died two years ago at 96 in California.
Over 260,000 Filipinos fought along-side their American compatriots in World War II. Three of these heroes were able to join us on Saturday, Jessie Castro, Vitaliano Bantiles and Leonor Jimenez.
You can learn more about this overdue recognition at https://www.northwestmilitary.com/veterans/news/2018/11/Finally-recognized/.
On a much different front, I wanted to tip my hat to the fun and creativity shown in this Wednesday’s Halloween festivities. From Judy Archer’s dragon car for Trunk or Treat to the Hogwarts transformation in the Clerk’s office, I was amazed at the planning and execution of your elaborate costumes and decorations – while still delivering service to our residents!
Enjoy a few of my favorites below!
2018 Halloween Photo Gallery
View all of the photos employees submitted here.
Lastly, if you haven’t returned your election ballot, yet, please get it in the mail. Your voice and vote both matter!
Thanks for reading,