HOUSTON, Texas -- Four surviving Chinese American veterans of World War II and others were presented with one of the nation's highest civilian honors on Sunday.
In a ceremony commemorating their service, the veterans and families of more than 175 others were given the Congressional Gold Medal, an award expressing the nation's appreciation for their achievements.
The event, hosted by the Chinese American Citizens Alliance Southern Regional Congressional Gold Medal Committee, recognizes the veterans who are from nine states including Texas.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Lee was among those who helped celebrate the occasion, and the humility of those honored wasn't lost on him.
"If we had started 25-30 years earlier, the veterans themselves would have stopped this effort," Lee said. "They would have said it is not necessary, we just did our jobs. All of them were humble. They never talked about their service to their sons or daughters."
An estimated 20,000 Chinese Americans served in all branches of the U.S. military, even though 40% of them were excluded by law at the time from citizenship. History shows that they served with pride and valor.
There are an estimated 500-1,000 Chinese American veterans of WWII still living, according to the Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project.
Jeannie Moon was there with her father, Bock Mah, who received his medal along with the others.
"I'm so glad because, you know, he's going to be 99 years old in October, so to see him receive it in person is a great honor," Moon said.
Congress authorized the medal, its highest civilian honor, in 2018.
This recognition comes 76 years after the end of World War II.
"I am really honored to serve my great country," recipient Lewis W. Yee said.