Honoring the fallen

Immigrants have not needed citizenship or papers to fulfill their duty

The names of many Hispanics are listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, since it is estimated that more than 11% of the 58,152 soldiers who died in that war were Latinos. These Hispanic soldiers showed their valor and sacrifice, like they have done from the War of Independence all the way to the Afghanistan War.

That Memorial names 108 Garcíases, 83 Gonzálezes and many other names that make it obvious that those fallen soldiers were of Latino origin. Behind the names, there are human stories of youths of various backgrounds who came from places around the United States, some of them immigrants.

This year, Memorial Day is taking place against the backdrop of the debate on immigration reform. This is a good time to remember the sacrifice of those who did not need to be citizens to show their love and commitment to the place they considered their country, their home.

Stories like that of José Gutiérrez from Guatemala, one of the first soldiers killed in Iraq, abound in the Latino community. There is also Enrique Soriano from Texas, who despite being an undocumented immigrant, instilled the values of honesty, hard work and sacrifice in his American son, Armando, who also died in Iraq.

In the U.S. armed forces, Latinos have written a proud history, a history of valor. Neither their immigration status nor the lack of citizenship have prevented parents and children from valuing this land and doing their part for the nation when called upon to sacrifice.

That is why attempts to prevent the regularization of the undocumented and not allow those who would benefit from a reform to have access to citizenship border on ignorance–as is believing that these immigrants are unworthy of belonging in the U.S. The history of this nation bears witness to the contributions of immigrants, especially those who sacrificed their lives, and of the parents who did not need a piece of paper to instill in their children love for this homeland.