VFW elects Fil-Am to high command, backs USS Telesforo Trinidad drive
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Filipino Americans attending the 122nd Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW) National Convention were all smiles on Aug. 3 because the organization elected Filipino American Duane Sarmiento its new Junior Vice Commander (second in line) and unanimously passed a resolution urging the US Navy to name a combatant ship after Medal of Honor winner Telesforo Trinidad, a heroic U.S. Navy fireman.
“I am extremely humbled by the moment. I have spent most of my life in service to my country – in the U.S. Navy, as a police officer and through the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The gravity of being the first Filipino-American elected to the high office of Jr. Vice Commander-in-Chief in the VFW reinforces my resolve to represent and serve all VFW members regardless of race or ethnicity.
“Ipinagmamalaki ko ang maging Filipino (I’m proud of being Filipino),” said Sarmiento who was born and raised in New Jersey. His grandfather was born in Batangas City while his wife, Ellen, was born and raised in Pardo, Cebu City. They both speak Tagalog and Bisaya and reside in Gibbstown, New Jersey.
Sarmiento served in the United States Navy from 1988 to 1997, and the United States Naval Reserve from 2002 to 2006, earning his VFW eligibility by serving in Operations Desert Shield/Storm.
He received the Navy Achievement Medal, Navy Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Good Conduct Medal, the Southwest Asia Service Medal with three campaign stars, the Saudi Arabian Medal for the Liberation of Kuwait, Kuwait Medal for the Liberation of Kuwait and numerous other medals and ribbons. In 2003, he earned the title of the Naval Reserve Center Sailor of the Year at Fort Dix.
Other Fil-Am-originated resolutions approved by the VFW included #632, which urges the American Battle Monuments Commission to include the Camp John Hay Cemetery #1 and 2 in Baguio with the http://www.ABMC.gov/Clark, and #639 which urges the Veterans Affairs to translate information to Tagalog and other threshold languages.