Jose Aguayo has it right when he titled his book on Latino veterans, The Color of Duty: Stories of Latinos in the American Military, a writing that won second place in Latino focused non-fiction at The 19th International Latino Book Awards celebration held this September 9th in Los Angeles. The event is described as “a major reflection that the fastest growing group in the USA has truly arrived.”
Aguayo’s reason for compiling the information and writing a book is because mainstream histories on military service tend to leave out or diminish the contributions of Latinos and their families. Just ask Ken Burns who produced an exhaustive 14 hour documentary on World War II for the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and yet largely forgot to include the sacrifice of over half a million Latino soldiers.
After great pressure, Burns decided to add more interviews and re-edit the work, some say, for political correctness reasons rather than for a real desire to set the record straight. Rosa Rosales, President of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) said it best best when she stated that, “we understand perfectly that he only added the new interviews under pressure and, right now, it looks like he’s not very proud of that new material.”
So, it has always stood that a people must get to the place of being able to tell their story rather than have it told to them. After all, it is I am Joaquin, the epic poem that says “I must fight and win this struggle for my sons, and they must know from me who I am.”
Jose Aguayo’s work illustrates what Veterans Day really is all about. The hard work of training, the apprehension and fear of going into battle, the closeness of those that live and die together, the desire to get it over with and go home, the humor and the celebration of survival and the scars that will forever stay with you are all in the stories he tells.
Veterans Day has become more personal for those veterans that lived through the extreme nightmare of war. For them the notion of “Duty, Honor, Country” has a special meaning because of so much sacrifice on the part of so many.
The veterans I know are people that ask only that our country continue to be the beacon of freedom to ourselves and to the world. All warriors, past and present, relate most to these things in terms of simple symbols such as the flag, the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Veterans Day has also become more personal to me because we are a military family and our warrior has spent a career serving the nation including 9/11 and every major mission since that pivotal event in our history. I have seen and felt that sacrifice first-hand.
The fact that the country has been at war for over 16 years explains the change in the heartbeat of families every time members are deployed to far away lands and wars that do not seem to end. Therefore, we must take advantage of the opportunity November 11th offers to think about why our fighting men and women do this.
While it is true that our country is currently afflicted by political divisions of every kind, I know that we are united on what it takes to confront the petty tyrants that would deny our freedom. Finally, Veterans Day reminds us that our first duty is to family, community and country.