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NEWS | May 22, 2023

Georgia Guardsman Promoted, Family Service Honored

By Maj. William Carraway, Georgia National Guard

MARIETTA, Ga. - Maj. Alejandro V. Pascual IV was promoted to lieutenant colonel at the Clay National Guard Center May 21 in a ceremony that also honored the Pascual family’s history of military service.

Maj. Gen. Tom Carden, Georgia’s adjutant general, presented medals earned by Pascual’s great-grandfather, Tech. Sgt. Isabelo Viernes of the 45th Infantry Regiment (Philippine Scouts), to Pascual’s family.

“Today is certainly a special day for our organization and for our great nation,” Carden said. “I can’t tell you how humbled I am to be in the room with a family with servicemen with such an inspiring legacy that we can learn from. Lt. Col. Pascual’s desire to share the spotlight with his grandfather, Sgt. Isabelo Viernes, on such a special day is emblematic of our shared values as an organization.”

Joining Carden in congratulating Pascual and his family were Col. Jean Paul Laurenceau, commander of the 201st Regional Support Group; Brig. Gen. Bobby Christine, special assistant to the director of the Army National Guard, who also assisted Pascual’s family during the pinning ceremony; and Col. Brian Bischoff, state judge advocate for the Georgia National Guard, who administered the oath of office to Pascual. 

Pascual told the audience how his military service was inspired by learning about his great-grandfather’s experiences in the 45th Infantry Regiment.

The regiment was organized in the United States in 1917 and sailed to the Philippines in December 1920. In 1942, the 45th defended the Philippines against relentless Japanese assaults, earning three Distinguished Unit Citations and a Philippine Presidential Unit Citation for actions on the Bataan Peninsula. Soldiers of the regiment were decorated for valor, earning a Medal of Honor, six Distinguished Service Crosses and 27 Silver Star Medals. Viernes was one of 11 Soldiers of the 45th to earn the Bronze Star Medal.

Growing up, Pascual heard stories about Viernes’ military service. But it was not until he embarked on a history project in high school that he learned the full story of his ancestor’s World War II service from his grandmother.

Viernes fought with distinction at the Battle of the Pockets and the Battle of the Points while enduring limited rations for more than three months. His regiment and the defenders of the Philippines fought valiantly despite overwhelming odds. 

Maj. Gen. Edward King, overall commander of forces on Bataan, surrendered on April 9, 1942. Viernes and what remained of King’s 78,000-man force endured a march of more than 65 miles to captivity, which became known as the Bataan Death March.

Pascual pursued a bachelor’s degree in history from Furman University and a law degree from Samford University. His history studies stoked his interest in his family’s experience in World War II. He discovered military service records verified his grandmother’s memories and that his great-grandfather had never received some of the medals he earned in the conflict.

“While the archives confirmed the list of his decorations,” said Pascual, “we know he never physically received (his Bronze Star Medal and Prisoner of War Medal) because the regulation change that made him eligible was after the war and the (Prisoner of War) Medal wasn’t even created until after he died.”

Pascual did not learn the full story of Viernes’ service until recently when he received more than 400 pages of records from the National Archives. The documents revealed Viernes entered service in 1914 and earned the World War I Victory Medal. Surviving both world wars and the horrific effects of the Bataan Death March, Viernes retired in 1947 with full veteran benefits and received U.S. citizenship.

Pascual initially planned to commemorate Viernes’ service in his remarks during his promotion ceremony. But after learning the full extent of his service record, he asked his chain of command about conducting a medal presentation with his promotion. Georgia National Guard leaders embraced the idea.

Pascual is now the command judge advocate for the 201st Regional Support Group and serves as the deputy chief assistant district attorney for the district attorney’s office, Columbia Judicial Circuit of Georgia.

Pascual preferred to recognize Viernes’ service at his promotion ceremony over his own.

“I would probably have kept (the ceremony) small, said Pascual, “but I did want to honor my great-grandfather and figured this was a chance to meaningfully do it in a way that was personal and also recognize my heritage and that I am part of a greater legacy of Filipinos serving in the U.S. armed forces.”

 

 

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