May 25, 2021, Berkeley, CA – As the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month comes to a close, on Memorial Day the USS Telesforo Trinidad Campaign (USSTTC) will honor the thousands of Filipinos and Americans of Filipino descent who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedom.
Service in the U.S. Armed Forces has been a long-standing tradition for several generations of families of Filipino descent and many have given their lives for their country. During WWII, 1,000 Filipino sailors died while serving in the U.S. Navy and many thousands more died while serving in the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), the First Filipino Infantry Regiment and other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Many are still missing in action and, even worse, their names have been consigned to oblivion. The ultimate sacrifice by Filipino Americans continues today, such as U.S. Army Special Forces Sgt. First Class Reymund R. Transfiguracion, who died from wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device attack in Helmand Province in 2018 during his fourth deployment in Afghanistan.
In December 2000, PL 106-579, the National Moment of Remembrance Act was passed creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. At 3PM on Memorial Day, Americans are asked to pause for a minute of silence to and honor those who have died in service to the nation. “Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, engraved not on stone but in the hearts of men.”
USSTTC is working on having the first U.S. Navy ship ever to be named after a Filipino sailor who received the Medal of Honor 106 years ago – Telesforo Trinidad. Trinidad received the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism in the line of duty during boiler explosions onboard the USS San Diego (ACR-6) while the ship was underway in the Gulf of California on January 21, 1915. Trinidad still holds the distinction of being the first and only Asian American (and first and only Filipino) in the U.S. Navy to receive a Medal of Honor which was awarded on April 1, 1915.
No U.S. Navy ship has been named after a Filipino despite 120 years of faithful and loyal service by thousands of Filipinos since President McKinley authorized the recruitment of Filipinos in the Insular Force. During these precarious times of violence against many Asian Americans, the naming of a ship after Trinidad will recognize the long-standing contributions of Filipino-Americans to the security and freedom of our nation, the strong alliance between the U.S. and the Philippines since 1898 and the U.S. Navy’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Moreover, it will resonate strongly with over four million Filipino Americans who are looking for validation of the seminal contributions of Filipinos to U.S. history.