BY VENUS MAY H. SARMIENTO
DAGUPAN CITY – Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin paid homage World War II veterans in Pangasinan during the 70th anniversary of the Lingayen Gulf Landings at the Veterans Memorial Park in Lingayen town last Friday.
Gazmin said the annals of history of WW II in 1945 are full of memories of the veterans’ epic struggles.
“We honor the courage, valor and patriotism of our living and fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives so Filipinos may continue to live in liberty,” Gazmin said.
He said one of the survivors of the 97-kilometer Death March in Bataan was his father Captain Segundo Gazmin who passed away in 2010 at the age of 102.
“That is why I am truly proud of his legacy and the legacy of all the war veterans here today,” he said.
Gazmin assured the veterans that their heroism will be immortalized in the annals of history.
Col. Bruce Murray, defense attaché of the Australian Embassy in the Philippines and Maj. Gen. James Pasquarette, deputy commanding general of the US Army-Pacific, likewise thanked the veterans for their bravery.
Maj. Gen. Raul Caballes, deputy administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office said there are at least 1,192 WW II veterans and post-war veterans receiving old age pension at present.
Gov. Amado Espino, Jr. said the fight of the veterans for freedom in the country may have ended but Pangasinan will continue its fight to provide for a decent life for all Filipinos.
Espino noted that the number of surviving veterans is dwindling. He said when he had his first breakfast with war veterans in 1995, there were around 600 veterans present . This time, there were only 71 who have made it to the occasion physically.
In the same event , three surviving Centenarian war veterans were awarded with medals of valor. They are Private Nicolas Gintang Elegores of Urdaneta City, Private Prudencio Manzano Sabado of Binalonan town and Private Apolonio Cruz Milamina of Labrador town.
All the 71 war veterans present were honoured with a 21-gun salute and a medallion with the print ‘A Salute to Valor’ and were treated to a free medical-dental mission.
The annual celebration of the Lingayen Gulf Landings and the Pangasinan Veterans’ Day is held to commemorate the historic event when United States General Douglas MacArthur and his allied forces landed on the shores of Pangasinan on January 9, 1945 to liberate the Philippines from Japanese forces. (MCA/VHS/PIA-1/Pangasinan)