90-year-old Frank Francone bound for congressional ceremony to honor Filipino World War II vets
Author: Ernest Luning - October 23, 2017 - Updated: May 25, 2018
Ninety-year-old World War II veteran Frank Francone will be on hand Wednesday in Washington to help commemorate the service and sacrifice of the Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers who fought to liberate the Philippines more than 70 years ago.
House and Senate leaders plan to gather at the U.S. Capitol to present a Congressional Gold Medal to honor the more than 260,000 recognized Filipino veterans who fought alongside American troops in World War II. House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will take part in the ceremony, according to Ryan’s office.
After that, survivors and their families plan to lay a wreath at the World War II memorial — and that’s when Francone is scheduled to speak.
Francone, who was a 19-year-old 2nd lieutenant stationed in the Philippines right after the war ended, told Colorado Politics he’s honored to help keep alive the legacy of the Filipinos who perished during World War II — an estimated 57,000 soldiers and more than 900,000 civilians.
“The memory will only be maintained as the story is told to our children and grandchildren,” he said, previewing the brief remarks he intends to deliver. “The congressional gold medal is not the end — it’s the beginning and a vehicle for making our children and grandchildren aware of this history.”
Francone, a Lakewood resident, is the father of the Republican House District 22 candidate also named Frank Francone and the grandfather of the Columbine High School senior with the same name, though he goes by Frankie.
The medal, authorized late last year by Congress in legislation signed by President Barack Obama, is the highest civilian honor the United States can bestow. Veterans’ advocates are trying to raise roughly $1 million to be able to make replicas of the medal available to the estimated 18,000 eligible veterans and their surviving relatives.
“I’m interested in having people recognize the contributions the Filipinos made during World War II,” Francone said. He recalled commanding an infantry battalion that was part of the Philippine Scouts at Fort O’Connell — the end-point of the infamous Bataan Death March — although he noted he was only stationed there for five months.
“Most of the men involved in the war have long died — they’d be 94, 95 years old — so they’re long gone,” Francone said. “It’s an honor really to have been a member of that group. I was just a young kid, really. But we don’t realize the responsibilities we had at that time.”
The ceremony is set to take place at 11 a.m. Eastern Time — 9 a.m. in Colorado — in the U.S. Capitol’s Emancipation Hall. Video of the ceremony will be live-streamed here.