Lingayen- - -The 70th Lingayen Gulf Landings Anniversary as well as the 8th Pangasinan Veterans’ Day is “a sentimental journey to the past and a glimpse of bravery and courage of all unsung heroes of World War II who valiantly shed tears, sweat and blood.”
This was the gist of the speech delivered by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who was the guest of honor and speaker of the twin event held on January 9 at the Veterans’ Memorial Park inside the Capitol Complex in Lingayen.
Sec. Gazmin, whose father is a WWII veteran, said he shares the same sentiment of honoring the men and women who risked their lives during the war in defense of freedom and sovereignty.
The cabinet official pointed out it is only fitting that the heroic deeds and bravery of the war veterans, both living and fallen, be “immortalized because if not for them this generation and the next will not completely enjoy the freedom that was derived from the arenas of great courage.”
‘Their exploits are stories of heroism and their sacrifices are tales of camaraderie and friendship,” he added.
Meanwhile, Gov. Amado T. Espino, Jr., who initiated various projects for the benefit of all Pangasinan WWII veterans, said the province owes so much from the veterans being the “prime movers of preservation of national patrimony.”
It can be recalled that the Espino administration published two years ago the stories of 33 valiant Pangasinan fighters in the book, Biographical Sketches: Pangasinan Heroes of the World War II.
Free medical missions for veterans were also carried out. The activity is now a regular action program of the provincial government as one of the benefits accorded to all WWII veterans.
The present administration also endeavored to reconnect Pangasinan youth to the gallantry and patriotism of the province’s war veterans by way of holding a poster-making contest that was launched and implemented in coordination with the Dept. of Education.
Maj. Gen. James Pasquarette, US Army Pacific Deputy Commanding General, commended the Filipino guerrillas who, he said, “served to the limit of their endurance and undoubtedly saved many thousands of American lives.”
Pasquarette likewise stressed that as the Lingayen landings in January 9, 1945 played a pivotal part in history, January 9, 2015 is also a history in another sense as people can “now look forward to the possibilities that exist.”
On the other hand, Col. Bruce Murray, Defense Attachè of the Australian Embassy in the Philippines, said that the freedom that was achieved 70 years ago served as a timeless example of “solid alliances and shared values.”
Murray noted the same values are again displayed in modern times by most Filipinos as he cited the country’s experiences during Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 and Typhoon Ruby last December when Australia once again stood “to provide defense and aid support.”
The celebration was highlighted by the presentation of recognition to three WWII centenarians to include Nicolas G. Eligores of Urdaneta City who was born on December 4, 1914, Prudencio Sabado from Binalonan, born on July 15, 1915, and Apolonio Millamina of Labrador town, born on April 17, 1915.
They each received a plaque of recognition from the Phil. Veterans Office (PVAO) and wheel chair and cash from the provincial government.
All 71 living WWII veterans from Pangasinan were also given medallions of valor as symbol of deep appreciation for their heroic deeds.
After the ceremonial program the formal turn-over of the 70-ship miniature replica of the US Navy Fleet landing at the Lingayen Gulf on January 9, 1945.
The miniature ships collection which was personally donated by Retired US Navy Weatherman Russel Leon Sandlin to the province was exhibited for public viewing at the venue to provide the people a vivid glimpse of the historic past.
Sandlin’s grandfather and uncle were in the regiment of troops who landed in Leyte and Lingayen.
Thanksgiving mass and wreath laying ceremony was held before the ceremonial program.