Honoring stories of courage
(From left) US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Law, American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) commissioner Robert Wefald and Pacific superintendent Larry Adkinson with Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency director Kelly McKeague during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Honoring stories of courage
THIS WEEK ON PEOPLEASIA - Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star) - October 27, 2019 - 12:00am

For over 70 years, the relationship between the Philippines and the US has remained solid, forged in the fire of battle when Filipinos and Americans fought together during World War II.

Last week, the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) opened a new interpretive visitor center at the Manila American Cemetery (MNAC) that honors the sacrifices of the brave men and women during the War for the Pacific.

The opening of the MNAC — the first in the Pacific — also marked the 75th anniversary of the return of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, fulfilling a promise he made when he said: “I shall return” — on Oct. 20, 1944. MacArthur’s resolve to keep his word has left an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of Filipinos especially those who suffered during World War II. 

Joint US Military Assistance Group’s Col. Stephen Ma with former Vice President Jejomar Binay.

The opening of the new visitor center in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City was witnessed by American and Filipino veterans of the Pacific campaign as well as family members of fallen soldiers buried at the MNAC or memorialized on the wall known as the “Tablets of the Missing.”

Also present were government officials and members of the military, US Embassy officials led by Chargé d’Affaires John Law, ABMC commissioner Robert Wefald, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency director and retired US Air Force Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague, and superintendent of the Pacific Larry Adkison.

Philippine Air Force Chief of Air Staff Maj. Gen. Glicerio Peralta (third from left) with members of the American Legion.

In his remarks, ABMC chief operating officer John Wessels said that “the new visitor center is a wonderful reflection of the partnership between the American and Filipino people,” adding that the center will tell the story to generations of Filipinos and Americans.

Chargé d’Affaires John Law noted the extraordinary friendship between the US and the Philippines, with the MNAC and the new center visually displaying the depth of the relationship between the two nations and their shared history.

Remarks from retired US Air Force Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague.

The MNAC is the largest of the 15 World War II cemeteries managed by the American Battle Monuments Commission with over 17,000 graves of fallen American and Filipino service members, including more than 36,000 names of the missing that are honored on the walls of the memorial.

The 11,000-square-feet new visitor center includes an exhibit gallery and a state-of-the-art theater that shows a 17-minute film highlighting the contributions and sacrifices of both the Philippines and the US in the fight for the Pacific during World War II. It is free and open to the public. *

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