8/12/2007

Honoring Lolo

I met Gregg last Spring at the National Conference of the Philippine Scouts Historic Society. There he told me that he had been working hard to bring recognition to his lolo's service in the US Army and he hoped that the contacts he had made at the conference would help. I'm glad to know things are turning out well for him as his family.

Filipino War Hero to be Remembered at Arlington National Cemetery…

After six years of sometimes frustrating effort, Gregg Baltazar Timbol received an important post card: “This is to inform you that the memorial marker has been received at Arlington National Cemetery.”

Sixty years ago Gregg’s Filipino grandfather, Corporal Fernando Baltazar, was killed in action fighting for the United States at the beginning of World War II. On January 23, 1942 Corporal Baltazar’s unit, the 45th Infantry Regiment, Philippine Scouts, was ordered into the front line on Luzon Island in the Philippines to attack a Japanese regiment that made an amphibious landing on the rocky cliffs of Bataan Peninsula in the dead of night.

The battle raged on in the dense jungle for more than a week and although the 45th was ultimately successful in driving the Japanese force back over the cliffs and into the sea, many men were killed. Corporal Baltazar’s body was never recovered. The Army posthumously awarded him the Bronze Star for his bravery in combat, and the Purple Heart for his fatal wounds.

Fernando’s three young daughters were left orphans and there was no one to arrange a memorial service for him.

Having heard the story of his grandfather’s bravery as he was growing up, Gregg Baltazar Timbol, decided to do something about it. He began in 2000 by applying for U.S. citizenship for his grandfather. Non-citizen soldiers killed in action in the U.S. Army are sometimes eligible for posthumous citizenship, a special honor which does not convey benefits but recognizes the soldier’s personal sacrifice.
The application was first delayed, then denied because a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in 1973 had destroyed Fernando Baltazar’s Army records. Gregg re-submitted the application through Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office and it has again been denied, but Gregg is submitting another appeal.

During this process Maxine McLean, a member of the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society whose father commanded Fernando Baltazar’s unit, urged Gregg to contact the National Battle Monuments Commission to see if his grandfather could be honored at Arlington National Cemetery.

Gregg submitted the application on April 30, and got a quick response. Just after the 4th of July, 2007 Arlington installed a marker commemorating Corporal Fernando Baltazar. On August 14 Gregg, his family, and any others who wish to join them will attend a U.S. Army memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C., honoring the bravery and sacrifice of Corporal Fernando Baltazar, more than sixty years ago.

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