Veterans Day honors the sacrifices people have made to protect this country, but one group is still waiting to be recognized: Chinese Americans who fought in WWII.
Seventy-three years after the war, advocates with the Chinese-American WWII Veterans Recognition Project are pushing for Congress to officially honor as many as 20,000 Chinese-Americans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The bill calls for a single Congressional Gold Medal, to be awarded collectively to the vets as a symbol for their service. The bill passed in the Senate but has yet to pass the House — advocates are rushing to get the bill passed before the start of the new Congress in January.
E. Samantha Cheng: "They're dying. These people serve. ... They served their adopted country and they deserve to be recognized. ... I think every immigrant community needs to be recognized for their contributions to U.S. history. Ours just happened in a war time. ... We are losing them daily, we have less than 50 left all across this country that's shameful. "
While pushing for this bill, recognition program director E. Samantha Cheng met so many WWII veterans along the way.
Cheng: "You have to understand that the average age for World War Two vet is in their 90s. They're just so touched that someone remembered to say, thank you."
Chinese Nationals and Chinese Americans faced racism and discrimination before the war. Laws like the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act barred Chinese Nationals from immigration and citizenship, specifically naturalization. 40 percent of those who served were not U.S. citizens, but later received citizenship due to their service. That Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed 61 years later.
But why did it take this long for a congressional recognition?
Cheng: "People did not know that you can ask and advocate for a group of people to receive — to be honored and recognized that's as simple as it can be."
The Congressional Gold Medal, is the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress. Just last year more than 250,000 Filipino WWII Veterans were finally recognized for their service. They were promised U.S. citizenship and benefits but that promise was revoked after the war."
Cheng: "If you feel so strongly about something, and you want people to know what you've done on behalf of the United States, as a community, you have to make that happen. No one's doing it for you. Seriously. No one will give a banana at all what your forefathers did, unless you bring it to their attention."