US Solons visit Clark cemetery

Monday / February 25, 2013





Memento. US Rep. Miller (center) receives on behalf of his delegation framed mementos of the Clark cemetery from members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars who have retired in Angeles City. Photo by Bong Z. Lacson


CLARK FREEPORT ZONE — ”I have heard the story of the Clark cemetery and I am honored to stand before you today on this hallowed ground.”


Thus, said a visibly moved US Rep. Jeff Miller (Florida, 1st district), chairman of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, as he addressed US veterans and members of his delegation during the wreath-laying ceremony at the Clark Veterans Cemetery here last Friday.


“It’s an honor to be here today. I’m glad that the US Congress has taken a role in providing funding for the upkeep, maintenance and restoration of the cemetery and I have spoken with the foreign secretary (Alberto Romulo) as to the need to speed the process to forge an agreement as quickly as possible,” he added.


Miller was accompanied by his delegation that included Rep. Gus. M. Bilirakis (Florida, 12th district), Rep. Jo Bonner (Alabama, 1st district), Rep. Michael H. Mikhaud (Maine, 2nd district) and Rep. Timothy J. Walz (Minesota 1st district). The visiting US solons toured the area, laid a wreath and got a first-hand view of the condition of the Clark Veterans Cemetery.


Congressman Bonner said “we are all reminded of the sacrifices especially those of you who so proudly wore the uniform not only of our nation but our freedom. We are reminded that freedom is not free and today here especially on this solemn ground we are reminded of the ultimate sacrifice that comes to preserve freedom.”


“We salute you, we thank you and we ask that God bless you and all freedom loving people here and around the world,” he added.


Congressman Walz said, “it is a privileged to stand before you today and in behalf of the people of Minesota, we will not forget the sacrifice of those who gave everything as we conduct ourselves in a manner befitting of them, to care for them, to live our lives and make sure that our country lives up to the ideals that believes in the values of those who sacrificed.”


For his part, Congressman Mikhaud said, “I too want to thank the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) not only for doing work in Clark but also to continue the advocacy to make sure that we never forget those individuals who wore the uniform.”


Meanwhile, Dennis Wright, President and CEO of Peregrine Development International, acknowledged the efforts of the Clark Veterans Cemetery Restoration Association, VFW, disabled veterans, and the American Legion in keeping the upkeep of the Clark Cemetery through their volunteerism.


Wright also expressed his gratitude to the US Senate and House for their efforts in pushing for Federal support for the cemetery as he handed a plaque of appreciation to the visiting US solons.


Last January 13, President Barack Obama has signed into law a bipartisan legislation to restore the Clark Veterans Cemetery located here by allocating $5 million.


A US Embassy statement said the US delegation was in the Philippines to underscore the importance of the US – Philippine bilateral relationship and to take note of the sacrifices of US and Filipino servicemen and women in the fight to secure freedom for future generations.


Miller said it was his first time to visit Clark but “it is without question the highlight of our trip.” He said he was in the committee for 12 years but “I am on my third year as chairman.”


The origins of the Clark Veterans Cemetery can be traced to 1900 after the conclusion of the Spanish-American War. As a result of the war, the US inherited the Philippines from Spain and established a number of US Army posts throughout the islands including what is now Clark.


Today, the Clark Veterans Cemetery is the final resting place of almost 8,600 individuals with the earliest recorded burial being Private Santiago Belona, a Philippine Scout who served in the US Army and died on January 13, 1900.


In addition to the 650 Philippine Scouts, there are thousands of U.S. veterans from the US Army, US Navy, US Marine Corps, US Air Force and US Coast Guard and their dependents, which comprise the preponderance of the burials. There are also over 2,100 unknowns buried in Clark.



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