More than 200 people came to Monterey Park City Hall to hear military veterans tell of their experiences as the city celebrated Veteran's Day, 2014. Keynote speaker was Bill Sanchez, a local resident, who served in the Army during World War II and was a prisoner of war.
The former Sgt. Sanchez, 96, mesmerized the crowd of veterans, their families and public safety personnel as he told of recently returning to Japan where he was a prisoner of war. He was in the company of six other POWs last month who returned to the location of their prisoner of war camp where they relieved the horrors of their internment. Despite his age, Sanchez stands straight at attention and is over 6 feet tall, although he uses a cane to steady himself.
He and other American and British prisoners of war were put to work as slave laborers working to recover land at a seaport. His story, as well as other heroes has been well documented in articles that appeared in the Washington Post, L..A. Times, San Gabriel Valley Tribune and the Monterey Park Journal. Sanchez was liberated in 1945 when the war ended with the defeat of Japan.
After joining the Army in September 1940, he was stationed in the Philippines and was among those captured by the Japanese Imperial Army at Corrigador in May 1942. After a forced march he an many other prisoners of war were transported by ship to Japan where they were put to work at Camp Omori. On his recent 12-day trip hosted by the Japanese government, he visited the former prisoner of war camp, which has been redeveloped and is unrecognizable.
The annual Veteran's Day observance was hosted by the American Legion and the city of Monterey Park. Local elected officials participated in the ceremonies. Thanks to recent recent publicity , people from throughout San Gabriel Valley joined Monterey Park.
Veteran's Day was originally called Armistice day and marked the conclusion of World War 1.
After the Veteran's Day ceremonies, Sanchez and other veterans and friends had lunch at the American Legion Post 397 located near city hall.