World War II veteran honored with highest civilian award
“When our world needed him most, he and his fellow Soldiers answered the call and put their lives on the line in service to the greatest generation,” Congressman Roger Williams, District 25, told the crowd gathered Friday to honor Jose Manzano-Somera.
Manzano-Somera, of Georgetown, was presented with the highest honor bestowed to a civilian – the Congressional Gold Medal, during a ceremony at the West Atrium inside III Corps Headquarters, surrounded by his family and friends.
“I can’t say a word to describe this event,” Elizabeth Manzano-Somera, wife of the recipient, said. “It’s so meaningful and special – a special event for my husband and our family.”
Born in Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, Philippines, on Dec. 10, 1926, DeManzano-Somera was 19-years-old when he decided to enlist in the New Philippine Scouts of the U.S. Army. Possibly feeling the same sense of duty to serve which many other Soldiers feel, he enlisted on Aug. 26, 1946, where he served until April 19, 1949, fighting alongside the 1st Cavalry Division in the Philippines, Saipan and Guam during World War II.
“The contributions the scouts made were immeasurable,” Steven Frank, III Corps historian, said during his remarks. “They helped save thousands of American and Filipino lives and sped up the liberation of their homeland in countless ways.”
The Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015 was designed to honor more the more than 250,000 Filipino and Filipino-Americans who deployed in service to the United States from July 26, 1941 to Dec. 31, 1946. Williams said the recognition was long overdue, because the scouts fought side-by-side with American Soldiers and more than 57,000 never returned home.
“This is only the 46th award presented to a Filipino Scout,” Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, III Corps deputy commanding general, said before the presentation. “What we have here in front of us today is a man of true exception.”
George Washington was the first recipient of the prestigious honor on March 25, 1776, after the award was formed by the Continental Congress to honor individuals or groups who have made a lasting impact on Americans and culture. Washington received his award for his wise conduct during the British evacuation of Boston during the Revolutionary War. Since then, the Congressional Gold Medal has only been awarded 163 times in the last 243 years. The medals are unique, depending on the recipient, with Manzano-Somera’s medal displaying faces of Filipino veterans who served during World War II.
Williams said his greatest honor is representing the men and women in the military as a congressman and is honored to present the award.
“Your service will not be forgotten,” Williams said. “On behalf of the United States Congress and the 25th District of Texas, I thank you for your service.”