Editorial: We Must Honor the Fallen

This election year, it is worth remembering that you do not need to be born in the U.S. to be a patriot. 

Memorial Day is meant to be a time to remember the sacrifices made by people who died serving in the Armed Forces, to honor the memory of these men and women who gave their lives while carrying out their duty. Minorities and majorities are not relevant here; only individuals who shared a calling to offer their lives to serve the demands posed by their country…  and by the people in government.

That was the case with Lance Cpl. José Gutiérrez, who died in Iraq in 2003. When he was 14, he entered the U.S. illegally after his parents died in Guatemala. He crossed Mexico and then reached the U.S., where he was placed in foster homes until he turned 18. That year, he was granted residency.

Although he wanted to become an architect, Gutiérrez joined the Marines “to give back to the U.S.” what the U.S. gave him. He arrived with nothing, and this country gave him everything,” said his U.S. “sister.”

Gutiérrez is registered as the first U.S. soldier to die in the Iraq war. He was awarded U.S. citizenship posthumously.

This election year, Gutiérrez must be remembered, especially for the presumptive Republican candidate, Donald Trump, who sees undocumented people as rapists and killers. The same goes for those who believe that the minors coming in from Central America are an invasion of criminals. They are so wrong!

The patriotism Gutiérrez felt towards the country that gave him shelter is the same sentiment shared by the more than 100 immigrant soldiers who received U.S. citizenship after making the ultimate sacrifice in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Someone does not need to have been born in this country to be a patriot. This was not an impediment for Spaniard George Farragut, for instance, who fought in the U.S. War of Independence. Gutiérrez did not need it, and neither will the next foreign-born U.S. soldier who dies in combat.

Our soldiers perish following the orders of civilian leaders who send them to war. The honor belongs to them. The presidents, the desk warriors, who send them to fight in absurd conflicts, will be judged by History and by their peers. Lastly, voters have the responsibility to choose a leader who respects and values the lives of troops. That is the best tribute we could possibly pay the fallen.