URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — The community, along with the Illinois National Guard, gathered Wednesday in Urbana to commemorate the liberation of Baguio in the Philippines. 

In 1945, the 33rd Infantry Division from the Illinois National Guard took part in the Battle of Baguio which helped liberate the Philippines at the end of World War II.

Members of the Illinois National Guard and the Philippine Student Association from the U of I were at Wednesday’s celebration highlighting the historic event.

“Although there’s a lot of history behind that, it’s very alive and well and strong today as well,” Matt Larson said.

Larson, a member of the Illinois National Guard, just touched down in Central Illinois last week. He and other members of the National Guard spent the last six months in the Philippines where Baguio is located.

“Was to conduct, combine interoperability, training events and exchanges with the Philippine army,” Larson said of his time in the Philippines. Larson said they focused on deepening the partnership and understanding between U.S. and Philippine forces.

To help share the experience with the community, the National Guard hosted a commemoration and celebration of 300 years as a state militia.

“Our recent mission in the Philippines is part of that, and an example of that,” Larson said.

“It’s amazing, anytime people come back, we have to make sure they’re taken care of and their families are taken care of in the process as well,” Mark Bowman said.

Bowman is a retired command sergeant commander and was thankful to see Larson at the celebration. He also said it’s events like this that help inform the community.

“You can’t understand where you want to go, unless where you came from,” Bowman said.

Something Larson echoes.

“Looking back and trying to put that into, summarize what we just did, but mostly I want to share that experience with the participants today, just so that they understand how vital that relationship is,” Larson said.

Larson said that experience, and what he learned, continues even today. 

“It’s the building blocks of who we are, those people that lived before us, those generations that lived before us, have made us what we are, and we have to understand that before we move on,” Bowman said.

“Just glad to be home,” Larson said.