3 decades after his death, a Filipino vet’s remarkable courage still unites 2 families

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – When the U.S. military fought against the Empire of Japan’s forces in the Philippines, Joe Paras and other Filipinos took up arms to defend their homeland.

Lana Paras said her father was a brave man.

“As a young man, my dad was a Filipino scout during WWII,” she said.

At the start of the war, Paras was on the island of Corregidor, where he was badly wounded in battle. Later, he was among thousands of Filipinos and U.S. troops forced to make the brutal 65-mile Bataan Death March to a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

“Many, many people died. They suffered because of starvation, brutality, abuse, and just to go through the march itself,” Paras said.

When Americans liberated the POWs, Paras refused to leave another Filipino soldier behind.

It led to a lasting bond.

“Here it is 2022, our families are still connected. Three generations on, the children and the grandchildren know each other,” Lana Paras said.

During his U.S. Army service, Sgt. 1st Class Joe Paras would survive the wars in Korea and Vietnam.

He retired after 40 years of service, eventually moving his wife, Maria, and their children to Hawaii where he worked for the federal government.

“If not for my dad’s military service, I wouldn’t be here talking to you today,” Lana said.

Her father’s war wounds contributed to his death in 1988 at the age of 69. He and his wife are buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

“Joe Paras was a very special man. I think he was ahead of his time,” his daughter said.

Last summer, Congress posthumously awarded Paras the Congressional Gold Medal for his distinguished achievements. Lana Paras said it means a lot to her family even though it came 33 years after her father passed away.

“It makes me proud of my heritage. It makes me very proud of my father,” Lana said.

Paras also received a Purple Heart, Prisoner of War Medal, and the Bronze Star. His service to the Philippines and the United States went above and beyond the call of duty.

Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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