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Filipino WWII veteran honored after 75 years

GOSHEN, Ind. - An Elkhart County woman is celebrating her father's legacy after accepting the Congressional Gold Medal for her father last week in Washington D.C. when Congress recognized the thousands of Filipinos who fought for the U.S. in World War II.

Tucked away inside a small shed in Goshen now sits the highest civilian honor in the nation--the Congressional Gold Medal.

“It took the Filipinos 75 years for Congress to finally approve legislation to recognize the Filipino American veterans who served alongside the U.S. army during World War II," said Elkhart County Councilwoman Tina Munoz Wenger, who is also the daughter of a Filipino WWII veteran.

“It was really very touching. I wish my father was here. He would have been 94 years old," said Wenger.

Tina's father, Ireneo Munoz, served as a teletype operator for the Filipino guerrilla forces in WWII.

"It’s the honor of being able to fight for your country and defend your country," she said.

While about 260,000 Filipinos fought to defend the United States, they never received official recognition, and it took until the 90's for some to get their financial benefits.

“It’s political of course and it’s very frustrating... but it’s better late than never, I guess," said Wenger.

She says that at the ceremony, they were grouped by regions.

"All of us are next of kin. There’s nobody I think in our region that’s still alive," said the councilwoman.

Wenger says she's the only relative in Michiana.

“When I first saw my father’s picture on the big screen, I had to hold back my tears, because it was as if my father was there in that room," she said.

While he can no longer be with her at home, she says this medal and the honor that comes with it will live on. 

“This is a legacy, and honor from parents to kids to kids to kids, they just follow through," said Wenger.

Of the 18,000 veterans who are still alive, Tina says only 377 were invited to the White House for the ceremony.


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