Memorial Day honors American soldiers killed in wars. Remember the lives lost behind political decisions, be they good or bad the reasons for the conflict. They did their duty until they reached the last sacrifice.
There are times when the presidents on duty see the soldiers as an instrument for their objectives, like pawns in a chess that when the time comes they are dispensable to obtain supposedly higher goals.
In reality they are men and women who drop everything to defend the ideal of a free and democratic nation.
You don’t have to be of any race, ethnicity, or creed to feel that willingness to serve. Nor is it necessary to have been born on this earth. The gratitude of the immigrant towards their new home many surpasses the feeling of the native who takes it for granted.
An example is the Guatemalan José Gutiérrez is considered the first American soldier killed in the Iraq war. He illegally entered the United States at age 16 as an unaccompanied minor. He was placed in a foster family, his dream was to be a lawyer, although he previously enlisted in the Marines. In that uniform with his comrades in arms, in a distant land, he left his life under the American flag.
A 2011 Center For Naval Analyzes report says non-citizen recruits “have a greater attachment to serving the United States than what they now consider ‘their country” and have a better work ethic “than citizen recruits.
It is estimated that between 1999 and 2010 there were 80,000 soldiers who were not citizens, with more than 35,000 at their highest point in 2003. Half of them are from the American continent.
The figure may not be very high. But the importance of immigrants grows when one takes into account that many of the thousands of soldiers with Hispanic surnames who died in the two World Wars, in Korea, in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere were children or grandchildren of immigrants, period.
In the United States, Memorial Day should be a date that unites us all. We are bound by the memory of loved ones, by the appreciation of men and women who died for something much greater and more generous than their personal ambition. We are united because in the trench everyone is the same, the colors and cultures that make up our country disappear. Blood is red for everyone.