Sunday, May 21, 2023

Promotion Ceremony and Posthumous Medal Presentation Honors Family’s Enduring Military Service

 By Maj. William Carraway, historian, Georgia National Guard


Left: Technical Sgt. Isabello Viernes. Right: Lt. Col. Alejandro Pascual IV smiles as family members of his great grandfather, Technical Sgt. Isabelo Viernes
are presented with medals earned by Viernes in World War II during a ceremony at the Clay National Guard Center in Marietta, Ga. May 21, 2023.
Photo by Maj. William Carraway.

Major Alejandro V. Pascual IV was promoted to lieutenant colonel during a ceremony at the Clay National Guard Center in Marietta, Ga. May 21, 2023. The ceremony also provided the opportunity to honor the Pascual family’s history of military service as Maj. Gen. Tom Carden, Georgia’s Adjutant General, presented medals earned by Pascual’s great grandfather, Technical Sgt. Isabelo Viernes of the 45th Infantry Regiment (Philippine Scouts), to Pascual’s family.


Major General Tom Carden, Adjutant General of the Georgia National Guard presents the Bronze Star Medal, Prisoner of War Medal, and World War II
Victory Medal earned by Technical Sgt. Isabelo Viernes in World War II to members of the Viernes family during a ceremony at the Clay National Guard
Center in Marietta, Ga. May 21, 2023. Photo by Maj. William Carraway.

“Today is certainly a special day for our organization and for our great nation,” said Carden in his remarks before the medal presentation. “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. Lieutenant Colonel 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.”


Family members of Alejandro Pascual IV place the new rank insignia of lieutenant colonel on his uniform during a promotion ceremony
at the Clay National Guard Center in Marietta, Ga. May 21, 2023. Photo by Maj. William Carraway.

Joining Carden in offering congratulations to Pascual and his family were Col. Jean Paul Laurenceau, commander of the 201st Regional Support Group; Brigadier General 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. But it was Pascual himself who riveted the audience with the story of how his journey of military service was inspired by learning the story of his great grandfather’s experiences in the 45th Infantry Regiment.


45th Infantry Regiment History. 
Courtesy of Lt. Col. Alejandro Pascual IV.

The 45th 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, 27 Silver Star Medals. Viernes was one of 11 Soldiers of the 45th to earn the Bronze Star Medal.


Growing up, Pascual had heard stories of 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 service in World War II 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. Major General Edward King, overall commander of forces on Bataan surrendered on April 9, 1942 only after all hope of effective resistance was gone. Viernes and what remained of King’s 78,000 man force would endure a forced march of more than 65 miles to captivity which came to be known as the Bataan Death March.


Pascual pursued a bachelor’s degree in history from Furman University enroute to receiving his Juris Doctorate from Samford University. Pascual’s studies in history further nursed his interest in his family’s experience in World War II. He discovered that his grandmother’s memories were not only borne out by military service records but that his great grandfather had never received some of the medals he earned in the conflict.


Roster of Company E, 45th Infantry Regiment.
Isabelo Viernes is listed with the sergeants.
Courtesy of Lt. Col. Alejandro Pascual IV.

“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 records revealed that Viernes had entered service in 1914, a fact previously unknown by Pascual and his family, and had earned the World War I Victory Medal. Surviving both world wars and the horrific effects of the Death March, Viernes retired in 1947 with full veteran benefits and received US citizenship.


Pascual had initially planned to commemorate Viernes’ service in his remarks during his promotion ceremony, but after learning the full extent of his service record, he approached his chain of command about the possibility of conducting a medal presentation in conjunction with his promotion, a proposal which was met with enthusiastic support from the Georgia National Guard.


Pascual began his military career in 2012 with the Georgia National Guard and was assigned as a defense counsel with the 1078th Trial Defense Service. In 2014 he mobilized to Kuwait where he served as an international and operational law attorney. During the deployment, US Army Central Command became the headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve whereupon Pascual provided counsel on rules of engagement for operations in Iraq and Syria. Returning to the United States the following year, Pascual was assigned as trial counsel for the 560th Brigade Support Battalion. With the inactivation of the 560th BFSB in 2016, transferred to the 648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and was subsequently assigned to the 78th Troop Command to serve as the brigade’s command judge advocate. He is currently 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.


Lieutenant Colonel Alejandro Pascual IV stands before a display he built to honor the World War II service of his great grandfather Technical Sgt. Isabelo
Viernes who served with the 45th Infantry Regiment and survived the Bataan Death March. Photo by Maj. William Carraway.

While the ceremony provided the opportunity to recognize generations of service, Pascual was humble about his part, preferring to recognize Viernes’ service 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 US armed forces.”

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