My family’s pathway to U.S. citizenship began with my father, retired U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Tomas B. Taguba, who served from 1942 until 1945 as a Philippine Scout with the U.S Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE). The Philippine Scouts were one of many units assigned to USAFFE under the command of General Douglas MacArthur during World War II in the Philippines.
On July 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Philippine Scouts, the Philippine Commonwealth Army, and the Philippine Constabulary to duty to defend the Philippines, a U.S. possession since 1898, and the United States against the Imperial Japanese military forces. The Japanese invasion resulted in the capture of some 76,000 American and Filipino Prisoners of War who marched and died on the Bataan Death March. My father, great-uncle, and cousin were captured at Bataan. My dad later served as a guerrilla and fought the Japanese forces all the way to liberation in October 1944.
It is estimated that more than 260,000 Filipinos fought during the four-year campaign that resulted in some 57,000 killed and thousands more wounded for life, suffering through massive destruction and desperation throughout the Philippines.
At the end of the war, the U.S Army offered my father American citizenship for his courageous and loyal service to the U.S. Armed Forces. He was one of a few thousand soldiers offered this opportunity. He took the U.S. citizenship examination written in English, which he passed on this third attempt. He then served in the U.S. Army for 20 years and retired honorably in June of 1962.
My mother, Maria Taguba, and my three siblings immigrated to the U.S. in July 1961, landing in Hawaii to fulfill our dreams of becoming American citizens. Though my father had already gained his American citizenship in 1945, the process for our family took a bit longer. We were screened, took exams, and after taking the Oath of Citizenship, were finally naturalized as American citizens in July of 1962.
The inspiration of my parents with their hard life suffering through the ravages of war back home, and their perseverance to seek a better life in America; to be loyal and grateful for the generosity of our new country that my father fought to defend, opened an opportunity for me to serve my country as an American citizen. During high school in Hawaii, I enrolled in Junior Army ROTC, continued with Senior Army ROTC in college, and became a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army following my graduation from Idaho State University in May 1972. I served honorably on active duty for 34 years with assignments in the U.S., South Korea, Germany, Kuwait, and Iraq.
That same inspiration resonated with my entire family, including my brother, uncles, cousins, nephews, in-laws, and my son, all of whom serve or have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. My son, a captain in the U.S. Army, has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. A nephew, also a captain in the U.S. Army, is on his second tour in Afghanistan. He is following on the heels of his father and grandfather who served before him.
All told in our families, service to nation in answering the call to duty has amounted to more than 230 years of military service. It all started with our immigrant roots and a desire to defend the Philippines and the United States through patriotism and selfless service. My father and his fellow soldiers earned their citizenship. Today, we continue with our family tradition to serve this country and demonstrate our patriotism and gratitude for generations to come.
Like my family, thousands of immigrants have come to this country, thousands have given their lives willingly, and thousands more have been wounded for life. This is the duty to country expected of immigrants wanting to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces in return for American citizenship. For immigrants like me, there is no other way but to earn it.
Andrew Carnegie, founder of Carnegie Corporation of New York, said it with clarity: “There is no class so intensely patriotic…as the naturalized citizen and his child, for little does the native-born citizen know of the value of rights which have never been denied.”
Carnegie Corporation of New York named Antonio M. Taguba an honoree as part of its 2015 “Great Immigrants: The Pride of America” initiative. He is a highly-decorated U.S. Army Major General who retired in 2007 and now devotes his time to veterans’ issues.