Two generations of my family served the United States Army in 3 wars…without ever setting foot on U.S. soil. I find it ironic that these men put their lives on the line for this country, while many here lose sight of the fact that the freedoms they enjoy are owed to so many who believed so strongly in America’s values.
We seem in danger of losing sight of the fact that this is an immigrant country where even the native Americans are descended from Asians who were brave enough to venture here. Every one of us owes a debt to an ancestor who had the fortitude to endure the journey to this great land.
This is truly the home of the brave and the bravest of them all fought for our freedoms.
A Little About This Tribute
Every Memorial Day, I would post a collage of the veterans in my family who were no longer with us. This year, with this site up, I thought it would be a fitting tribute to go a little into their individual stories. I should give credit where credit is due. Much of these bios were written by my cousins in the Gelig family, for the first anniversary of Ian’s ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. However, I have certainly written quite a bit about my nephew, even on this site. And of course, I had written the obituary for my father, Luis Campos and posted about him on Facebook. Pretty much everything about Saturnino Gelig comes from Tim Gelig and Paul Gelig.
I must thank Paul for taking the photo of our Grandfather, which dates back from the Spanish-American War. Lolo Augustine was so proud of his service, and his Army memorabilia hung proudly in the house he built for over a century. Sadly, with the humid conditions in the Philippines, this photo is understandably fragile, so Paul dared not take it out of the original frame. So many of our relatives, myself included have taken shots of the framed photograph as well, but someday I hope to be able to have it scanned and preserved digitally for all posterity.
My Grandfather was one of the renowned Philippine Scouts, who helped guide US forces in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. He was so eager to serve America further that he also enlisted to serve in World War I. He was actually quite disappointed when he could not ship out because the war had ended. I can only imagine how his belief in the United States was so strong that he was willing to fight on foreign soil for a country he had never seen. He may have never come here, but this certainly is the heart and soul of a true American.
PFC Luis C Campos
My father migrated to the United States in 1931 and by the time of his passing in 2007, he was the oldest Filipino American in Kern County. During World War II, he served as part of the 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment…a US Army unit put together from brave soldiers wanting to help liberate the land of their birth from Japanese invaders. They got their opportunity as part of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s invasion force. After the successful liberation of the Philippines, preparations were then made to invade Japan. It was feared that the pattern of the Japanese fighting to the death at Iwo Jima and other island strongholds would be even more intense during an invasion of their homeland and the prospect of massive American casualties weighed heavily in the planning.
However, the use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki prompted the Japanese surrender. The irony is certainly not lost upon me that my father could easily have perished in that cancelled invasion and that I may not even be here today if thousands of civilians had not been bombed out of existence. Freedom and indeed life itself often comes at a great and terrible cost.
2nd Lt. Saturnino Gelig
My uncle, Saturnino Gelig was the father of Tim and Paul Gelig. He was part of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE). This command was part of the US presence during the colonial period. Gen. MacArthur led USAFFE when the Japanese invaded and these brave soldiers were most renowned for holding out during the siege of the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island. Unfortunately, the Japanese forces were overwhelming and the last American stronghold in Southeast Asia soon fell. Many Filipino and American prisoners of war were killed in the infamous Bataan Death March.
Again, I find myself greatly moved that Lt. Gelig and the valiant warriors of the USAFFE sacrificed so much for America and defending what was at the time American soil in the far east.
Sgt. Ian T.D. Gelig
My nephew, Sgt. Ian Gelig made the ultimate sacrifice for his country when his convoy was attacked by a suicide bomber on a bridge in Kandahar, Afghanistan on March 1, 2010. The explosion threw their armored vehicle off the bridge but everyone else in it escaped with only minor injuries. But since he was manning the gunner position at the time, Ian was in exposed to the blast and died instantly.
Ian’s passing was a shock to all his friends and family. He was so full of life and his brothers and sisters in arms always could count on him to cheer them up no matter what.
An Incomplete Story
There are certainly more stories to be told of these courageous men in their service to our nation. There are also more men and women in my family who fought for freedom, particularly during the Japanese occupation in World War II.
Most notable, is Isaac Campos, second oldest in the family after my father. I unfortunately have no information on where and how he served, since my father was already in America during those chaotic years. I am assuming he was part of USAFFE. I must appeal to my cousins for details and photos. I personally only knew him as an older man who struck me as having the same kind heart and strong work ethic that runs in our family.
To my limited knowledge, no one in my mother’s side of the family was in USAFFE or the US Army proper, but I most assuredly am unaware. I do know that Japan invaded the Philippines on my Mom’s 12th birthday, the day immediately after Pearl Harbor. The family immediately had to flee to the mountains, presumably making it the worst birthday ever. Her father and uncles did not serve officially in the military, but they did participate in guerrilla warfare against the invaders, so I must say with some degree of pride that this part of my family were freedom fighters. As we all know, non-military combatants defending their homeland frequently are among the most valiant defenders, fighting under extreme circumstances under terrible odds.
I do hope to someday be able to tell all of their stories, but I definitely need a little help from family and friends!