Building Bridges on Memorial Day

Communities in cities around the USA marched this weekend in memory of those who died while serving in our country’s armed forces. For others it is a time to relax, perhaps head to the beach, or barbecue on your backyard.

Chicago honors all men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country, with an annual parade starting at the foot of the State Street Bridge, also known as the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Bridge.

The first time I traversed this impressive, eight-lane bascule bridge, its commemoration plaque caught my attention. The rededication plaque read:

“In commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Philippine Independence, and on the occasion of Bataan Day APRIL 9, 1998, this bridge has been re-dedicated by Mayor Richard M. Daley in honor of all the Filipino and American Veterans who fought side-by-side during the Heroic Fall of Bataan and Corregidor Island, Philippines in 1942.”

When I read about its historic relationship with the Philippines, that was enough for me to feel a connection that bridged my past with my present home. Little did I know that my future will reveal a solid underpinning of deeper ties with America — my late paternal grandfather, Capt. Demetrio A. Luis would later be one of those honored with The Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor, the US House and Senate can bestow.

He fought on behalf of the USA under the 66th Infantry United States Armed Forces in the Philippines of Col. Russell Volckmann, co-founder of the U.S. Army Special Forces, and known for his heroics in the battles of World War II: The Philippines Campaign, The Battle of Bataan, and the Military and Guerrilla Warfare, Luzon. There were more than 250,000 Filipinos like him who answered President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s call to duty, to fight under the USA stars and stripes. America asked a lot from them, as my aunt Atty Connie Luis recounted the story of how our late grandfather (her father) risked not only his life, but the life of my then three-year-old father in his arms crossing enemy lines, for the benefit of the US. There were some who weren’t as fortunate to survive the war.

More than 57,000 Filipinos died fighting alongside the US during World War II. Their stories need to be told too. On Memorial Day, we honor, remember, and thank them for their service—a gratitude that was 75 years in the making through Public Law 114-265.

Among those who perished was my late maternal granduncle, Buenaventura Videna, a Purple Heart awardee, who was killed in the USS Ashville gunboat. His memory and legacy is etched on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in Bonifacio Global City (BGC), Taguig, Philippines.

Senator Mazie Hirono facilitated the law with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, and said “This is a story that needs to be told, again and again, so our country does not forget.”

Chicago continues to tell this story through the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Bridge (State Street bascule) that builds bridges of history, for America, with other nations.

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  • Yes, the brave people of the Philippines are an under-told story that deserves more illumination. FDR pulled MacAurther out of the Phillippines for basically political reasons, and the brave soldiers and civilians kept the fascist Japanese at bay. Your grandfather is a true hero.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    My maternal granduncle (brother of my grandfather), perished during World War II fighting under the US Flag. He is a Purple Heart awardee, and also a true hero: https://www.thepurpleheart.com/roll-of-honor/profile/default?rID=2ee9ea77-17b3-45ef-9e9d-280611a80ccd His name is etched on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) Taguig: https://www.abmc.gov/node/475572#.WxkuWKkh1uV

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