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Saturday, June 13, 2009

AFP-JSOTF-P Deliver Medical Assistance to Filipino WWII Veterans

By Lieutenant Lara Bollinger
Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines

A nurse from the Armed Forces of the Philippines gives a cane to a Filipino veteran who fought alongside U.S. troops during World War II at a Medical Civic Action Program Saturday at Camp Bautista. This MEDCAP for WWII veterans and their families was jointly hosted by U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines and AFP medical personnel. Various organizations, including the Special Forces Association, Disabled American Veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion donated medicine and equipment for the event. (U.S. Navy photo by Lieutenant Lara R. Bollinger/Released)

JOLO, Republic of the Philippines – World War II veterans and their families gathered at Camp Bautista Saturday to receive medical assistance and medications at a Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) hosted together by the U.S. Joint Special Operation Task Force – Philippines and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

U.S. and AFP medical personnel treated more than 20 World War II veterans and 150 family members during the event. They also distributed nearly P75,000 worth of medications, prescription eyeglasses, hearing aids, wheelchairs and canes provided by JSOTF-P and various U.S. charitable veterans’ organizations.

“These Philippine citizens fought together with U.S. forces during World War II,” said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Wilkerson, senior Special Forces combat medic and liaison between AFP and U.S. medical personnel. “This MEDCAP is special because we’re treating people that assisted us years ago. So this is our opportunity to give them help in return."

The MEDCAP is another in a series of efforts to honor the sacrifices of Filipino World War II veterans. The recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, approved by the U.S. Congress in February, provides funds to compensate Philippine soldiers who served side-by-side with the U.S. military during World War II. Members of JSOTF-P recently reached out to Filipino World War II veterans around Jolo City in Sulu Province to assist them in claiming war service compensation.

Saliladja J. Iribani, District Commander for Sulu Veterans’ District Regiment Four, was pleased to be receiving such assistance from the U.S. “We are very happy that the U.S. is here entertaining us, helping us, since we were allied during World War II,” the 83-year-old veteran said. Iribani joined the guerilla forces in the Philippines when he was just 18 years old.

Another veteran, Timbasal M. Abduhalim, Post Commander for Sulu Veterans District Regiment Four, was awarded a Bronze Star by the U.S. Government on July 20, 1960 – more than 15 years after his service during WWII – for Meritorious Achievement in ground operations against the enemy. He is now 93.

“We were fighting side by side with the Americans, and I’m happy that the United States has requested that we be here today,” Abduhalim said.

“All these veterans enjoy the fact that people still think about them,” Wilkerson said. “Jolo is a long way away from anything, so a bunch of the VA benefits are hard for them to get. When we come down and bring it to them, they are very appreciative.”

The organizations that donated the supplies for this MEDCAP are located in Angeles City, Pampanga. They include the Special Forces Association, Disabled American Veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

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