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NEWS | April 20, 2016

Philippine Day of Valor

By ADM Harry B. Harris, Jr. U.S. Pacific Command

Philippine Day of Valor

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl)

Honolulu, Hawaii

April 16, 2016

As Delivered

Thank you, Bennette, for the kind introduction. And to Consul General Jamoralin, thank you for your inspiring words.

Ambassador Cuisia, great to see you again. State and city leaders... esteemed members of our consular and diplomatic corps... fellow Flag and General Officers... guests from the Filipino-American community, ladies and gentlemen...

And most of all, a special welcome to our World War II veterans and Bataan survivors to whom we owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude for their heroic efforts.

I’m honored to join you here today to reflect upon the significance of the “Day of Valor," as we commemorate the courage and sacrifice of 75,000 Americans and Filipinos who fought in Bataan 74 years ago. 

I’d like to start my remarks by offering condolences to our Filipino brother in arms who lost his life in a training incident last week during the an exercise in the Philippines. It happened in the very region where Filipino and American warriors fought side-by-side at Bataan.

We also honor the memory and heroism of 18 fallen brethren from the A.F.P. – the Armed Forces of the Philippines – who recently died to rid their country of terrorists. 


Events like these remind us that the price paid by the defenders of freedom is high. We must never take for granted the cost of our liberty. This is true today, as it was true 74 years ago in Bataan.

And so, it is with great pride that I join you in laying wreaths today as reminders of those Filipino and American soldiers who fought and died together in defense of freedom. Against overwhelming odds, the heroes of Bataan fought with dated equipment, virtually no air support, in a malaria-infested region, with diminishing rations and little or no medical care.

Following the surrender of American and Filipino forces, the Bataan Death March began. In the scorching heat and through the jungles of Luzon, approximately 60,000 Filipino and 15,000 American soldiers were forced to make the march. Thousands died along the way from brutality, starvation, and dehydration.

Those who died are the guardian angels of both the Philippines and the United States. Some of them rest quietly in these hallowed grounds, and they will never be forgotten. Time will not dim the glory of their deeds and the legacy of peace they left behind.

As I look around this audience today, I’m reminded of that legacy – that former enemies can become close friends. And since the end of World War II, the United States and the Philippines have worked with our friends to build a rules-based security architecture that underpins a stable and secure Indo-Asia-Pacific region now considered by many as the center of gravity for the global economy.

Perhaps one of the greatest tributes to the sacrifices made at Bataan can be seen in our annual bilateral military exercise Balikatan, which means “shoulder-to-shoulder.”

How appropriate that it's led by Hawaii’s own Marine Forces Pacific commander Lt. General John Toolan; U.S. joint forces and the A.F.P. just finished this two-week exercise in the Philippines.

Balikatan 2016 was extraordinary. Not only did the Australian military participate this year, but--as the exercise was unfolding--the Filipinos hosted two Japanese warships and a submarine during a port call. This was the first time that a Japanese submarine has visited the Philippines in more than 15 years.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter also visited to observe first-hand this valuable exercise, which marked three decades of exceptional training on the islands of Luzon, Palawan and Panay... the very grounds upon which our forces fought shoulder-to-shoulder during World War II.

Although battles like Bataan have long passed, it’s important to remember that the world is still a dangerous place. It demands that we be ready 24/7, to meet any threat to America and our allies.

To help in this effort, the United States and the Philippines have initiated the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement – or E.D.C.A. – that will improve our ability to build capacity for the A.F.P through interoperability, capability development and modernization.

Together, we’re enhancing the military infrastructure and installations at five locations in the Philippines that will enable high-impact training for both the A.F.P. and U.S. Pacific Command forces.

The E.D.C.A. will take our defense cooperation to new heights and allow our alliance to play an even more prominent role in upholding security and stability in the region.

As the Philippines Secretary of Defense Voltaire Gazmin said recently, “after nearly 65 years, the Philippines and U.S. security interests have become increasingly intertwined, and our alliance continues to deepen.”

Shoulder-to-shoulder, we’re stronger.

So as we look upon the majestic Statue of Lady Columbia behind me, let us remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. As we honor them today, let us re-dedicate ourselves to delivering to future generations the same gift of security and peace that was purchased for us by those who sacrificed so much in defense of our freedom 74 years ago. Lady Columbia is reminded daily of their sacrifice, so too, we must never forget.

May God bless those who gave the last full measure in service to their countries during World War II, and to all our veterans who serve as living tributes of the things that make our nations great.

May God bless those who followed in their wake--the men and women of our armed forces--who defend our nations every day. And may God bless the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America.

Thank you.

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