Storytellers: Filipino veterans fight for honor

Though it's been 75 years, the uniform still fits.

AURORA - Though it's been 75 years, his uniform still fits. The memories of Aurora resident Greg Canono are still strong.

"I'm the first on the firing line," Canono said.

He was Filipino soldier fighting for the United States Army in the Philippines in World War II. America had sovereignty over the island nation at that time.

"That evening, fighting again. We again engaged the Japanese," Canono said.

He can remember details from his battles as he risked his life and watched fellow Filipinos die.

"That's the time, I saw a guy, out, just there's no head,": Canono said.

Eventually, he and his company were captured. He was a prisoner of war, one of the 70,000 American and Filipino soldiers forced to march more than 60 miles under harsh conditions. Anyone fell or slowed down was killed.

But, along the way, Canono says he saw an opportunity to escape.

"I see the cornfield higher than myself. I jump and just keep on running zig-zag," Canono said.

He was successful and made it back to his home village. Canono says he then continued to fight the Japanese using guerilla tactics.

"I'm actually very proud of my dad," Rebecca Canono said.

She's proud and she believes the United States should be proud, too.

"The government should give what these men deserve for fighting for our freedom," Rebecca Canono said.

Though it's been 75 years, Greg Canono and other Filipino Soldiers from World War II had never been fully recognized by the United States for their service.

"That's just wrong. It's just an injustice, you know," Mike Simbre said. "It's a slap in the face."

Simbre is an Aurora man who is part of a group called the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project. He helped lobby Congress to officially recognize Filipino soldiers like Canono.

"They've been waiting 75 years and they're dying off daily," Simbre said.

Frank Francone was an American officer assigned to the 12th Division of the Philippine Scouts.. He was company commander to a group of Filipino soldiers that Francone was dedicated to the United States.

"They were actually out there doing the fighting and they were defending our protection, our freedom here in this country," Francone said.

In December, President Barack Obama finally signed into a law the  Filipino World War II Veterans Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015. Canono and other veterans will finally get full honors.

"Certainly they deserve it and ought to receive it and if they're not living, then their family should receive it," Francone said.

Simbre says the medals are being designed. In the meantime, groups like FILVETREP are trying to raise money to produce enough medals for the thousands of Filipino veterans in the United States. His organization is also maintaining a national registry for Filipino Veterans. If you to find out more about the donations or the registry, please click here: http://www.filvetrep.org/

"It's an appreciation of saying thank you, thank you for your service," Simbre said.

Though it's been 75 years, Canono says at least it's finally happening.

"I won't say that it's too late," Canono said. "I'm not gonna be too much proud to wear it because I'm 93 now."

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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