“Happy Veterans’ Day, Thank you for your service, God Bless America, God Bless You, Sir or Ma’am” are greetings offered to veterans each year around November 11, originally called Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War I, “the war to end all wars” that has become a legal holiday officially called Veterans Day.
Over the coming weekend, throughout the country and here at home in Connecticut, cities and towns will honor and celebrate the contributions and sacrifices of generations of Americans who volunteered or who were drafted into military service during times of war and peace.
Parades, patriotic speeches, and various community breakfasts and dinners will be hosted for the surviving veterans of our military services. Many events will include wreath laying ceremonies at highly visible public spaces, at war memorials and monuments in a town square or city center.
But what happens for the American veterans who fought a war that is not memorialized nor remembered. What if these veterans fought a war that is not only “a forgotten war” like Korea? Or an unpopular war like Vietnam? Is it a war that America would rather forget ever happened? The war that propelled America onto the world stage as a nascent military and economic super power while earning a seat in the club of western colonialists at the dawn of the 20th Century: The Philippine-American War of 1899-1902.
A leisurely walk around the newly designed and erected Connecticut Veterans Memorial in front of the Legislative Building and Armory in Hartford is a painful reminder of this omission and a slap in the face to American military veterans who fought and died for this country during that war. The floor of the memorial’s plaza lists every major American War: the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, the Mexican War, Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq/Afghanistan, and even the Balkans (Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia).
The Balkans War of 1995? That was an American war? I thought that was just a NATO-United Nations Peace Keeping effort? But I digress.
The Philippine-American War lasted from February 4, 1899 to July 4, 1902 officially, but dragged on to the eve of World War I in isolated parts of the Philippines. This War should not to be confused with the Spanish-American War, “the Splendid Little War,” that lasted for four months from May 1, 1898 to the end of August, 1898. A Peace Treaty was signed in Paris between the US and Spain on December 10, 1898. Accordingly, any American soldier or sailor who fought or died fighting the War in the Philippines after 1898 did not fight or die during the Spanish-American War.
On the Yale College campus, on the walls of Woolsey Hall that memorializes every Yale military veteran in US history, under the title Philippine Insurrection, graduates like First Lieutenant Augustus Canfield Ledyard, Class of 1898, died on the Island of Negros, Philippines on December 8, 1899. The main Yale campus flagpole outside the president’s office is dedicated to LT Ledyard by his classmates. An 1896 Yale graduate and Manchester, CT hometown boy, First Lieutenant Ward Cheney died on January 7, 1900 in Imus, Cavite, Philippines, just few miles from the hometown of then Philippine president Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy, America’s public enemy number one in that war. From the Class of 1889, a Surgeon and Major Franklin Adams Meacham died in Manila on April 14, 1902.
And many more of their comrade at arms fought and died throughout the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902.
How do we honor them on Veterans Day and thank them for their service?
Sylvester L. Salcedo of Orange is a retired Lieutenant Commander, USNR, who served for 20 years from 1979-1999, shipboard and ashore, overseas and at home, on active and naval reserve duty. He is the son of a Defender of Bataan and Corregidor and a survivor of the Death March of 1942, the late Vivencio Leones Salcedo, a sergeant in the USAFFE (US Armed Forces of the Far East) under Gen. Douglas MacArthur.