Filipino soldiers cited for heroism
MANILA, Philippines—Defense military leaders paid tribute to the gallantry of Filipino soldiers both in times of conflict and during natural disasters, on the eve of celebration of the 78th anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Speaking to reporters during the AFP Recognition Day on Thursday, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin lamented that soldiers “are only remembered in times of hardships.”
“When there are calamities, floods, everyone is looking for the soldiers. When everything’s okay, the soldiers are forgotten,” he said. “That’s why to me, (the AFP Day) is important for the soldiers to be recognized.”
Referring to the Zamboanga fighting in September between soldiers and Moro rebels, Gazmin said that 13 years after retiring from the military, he never expected he would be in the middle of an urban warfare.
He said his wife, Rhodora, suffered from high blood pressure because he was once again in a conflict zone. He joked that his wife thought he would be an easy target because of all his white hair.
Gazmin said he never expected he would wear combat boots again, which was what he did during the Zamboanga skirmishes and later when he was in Tacloban City after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” struck.
“But I am always comfortable in combat boots. They are part of my first life,” he told the Inquirer.
Paying tribute to the soldiers, Gazmin said: “They give up their lives so that we can all sleep well at night.”
Talk is rife within the military that a Medal of Valor will be given on Friday at the AFP rites, where President Aquino will be the guest of honor.
Sources told the Inquirer that a soldier who fought and died during the Zamboanga siege last September would win the award.
If that happens, he would be the 40th soldier to receive the military’s highest combat award.
The Inquirer has learned who the awardee is but various military sources were divided on whether his name should be revealed before the medal is actually given to his family.
Some of the sources said there could be a chance the award might not be announced on Friday.
The last Medal of Valor was given nine years ago.
AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista described 2013 as “challenging but fulfilling” for the military.
“We had a lot of crisis this year. At the start of 2013 we had Sabah, then our people were kidnapped in Golan Heights, then we had storms that came one after another. There was an earthquake, the Zamboanga crisis, Yolanda. We went through a lot,” he said.
The military kicked off its AFP anniversary celebrations by awarding medals to nearly a dozen soldiers who took part not only in the Zamboanga siege but who successfully fought communist rebels in other areas.
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