The Invisible Veterans

Thousands of Filipinos fought and spied and suffered and died under American command to help us win World War II. The U.S. government says the soldiers who survived -- now elderly, often living in poverty -- aren't worthy of military benefits. Four storie

Shame in Our State
After the war, Fernando Ayes was called back to service in the New Philippine Scouts, the army that was formed after the U.S. recaptured the Philippines, until 1949. He then became a logging foreman on Mindanao, and later returned to his hometown on Leyte. A truck accident in Guam, where Ayes served under the U.S. Occupation forces, left him blind in his left eye and unable to walk without the use of a cane.

Now he shares a one-bedroom apartment on Mission Street with an elderly Filipino couple. Like many Filipino veterans, he relies on $750 a month in government assistance to make ends meet.

Marcelino Garcia finished high school while continuing to help with his father's fishing on weekends and holidays. He went to college for two years and studied radio engineering, but then had to quit because he needed to work to support his family. He took an assembly line job at an electronics factory in Manila, where he worked until he retired in 1991. He came to the United States that year, and he and his wife now live with their daughter in Daly City. They are supported by their five children.

Concepcion Figueras became a clerk for the Philippine army in Manila. When her father took ill a few years after the war ended, she returned to her hometown, Cordon. She took a clerical job for the municipal government, and later helped her sisters manage their farms when they immigrated to the United States in the 1980s. She followed them in 1992.

For more than 40 years, she lived what she calls a life "with all the vices." She became a born-again Christian in 1987, finding Jesus during a four-day revival in Cordon. Now, she resides in a residential hotel in the Tenderloin, living on $700 a month in SSI.

After World War II, Leonardo Asuncion returned to farming in Gerona, in central Luzon, where he lived until he immigrated to the U.S. in 1994. He lives with his youngest daughter in Van Nuys, and relies on $650 a month in SSI to pay his rent and other expenses. His wife is still in the Philippines; he wants her to join him, but her petition for a visa was denied. He calls her every Friday.

Since June 14, he and 30 other veterans have been protesting at MacArthur Park in Los Angeles to raise support for the Filipino Veterans Equity Act, Rep. Filner's bill. Every other night for the past three weeks, Asuncion has been sleeping at the park with a dozen other vets. The youngest of the protesting veterans is well into his 60s.

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