Highest honor: Congressional Gold Medal awarded to Chinese-American WWII veterans

The medal recognizes their patriotism and service and is the highest honor Congress can bestow
In light of recent attacks on Asian Americans across the country, on Wednesday Congress bestowed its highest honor to Chinese American veterans of World War II. They, too, had faced racial discrimination in the 1940's.

The medal recognizes their patriotism and service.

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An online ceremony replaced what was planned to be a signature event in Washington, to honor the estimated 20,000 Chinese Americans who served during World War II.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor that Congress can bestow.

"Today, with fewer than 300 Chinese Americans of the Greatest Generation remaining, it's more important than ever that we honor their service," said Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco.

Speaker Pelosi and other elected officials noted that the Chinese Exclusion Act was still in effect, barring immigration. Xenophobia and discrimination were widespread.

Yet, Chinese American women and men served, including 8,000 who were not citizens.

VIDEO: Gift of flight brings back memories for World War II veterans in Santa Rosa
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For veterans day, A Sonoma County man honored a group of World War II veterans by giving them a ride in an iconic plane from their time in service.

Among the surviving Bay Area medal recipients is 95-year-old Army Staff Sergeant David Gan of Berkeley, who enlisted at age 18.

He was part of the Allied invasion of Normandy, defending French villages from the German incursion.

Like many of his generation, he modestly said he was just one of many Americans serving their country to fight against evil during the war.

The Gold Medal has 94-year-old Walnut Creek veteran Ming Wong beaming, as he shares it with his wife Annie and daughter Leianne.

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He recalls spending his 19th birthday engaged in street battles in Nuremberg, Germany as part of the Army Third Division, 7th Regiment.

A week later, he was wounded and received the Purple Heart.

"It is very significant that Chinese Americans are being recognized with this Gold Medal for their patriotism, service and sacrifice," said Wong, a retired energy research engineer.

The G.I. Bill enabled him to attend U.C. Berkeley.

The front of the medal depicts Chinese American veterans who served in every military branch while the back features a Sherman tank, the USS Missouri battleship and a P-40 fighter plane that was used by the famed "Flying Tigers" pilots over what was then Burma, India and China.

102-year-old Army nurse Elsie Chin Yuen Seetoo, who was born in Stockton, was the designated recipient on behalf of all the veterans.
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