To day is Memorial Day. All over America people are celebrating with the traditional “day off’ and lighting up the bar-BBQ's, going out on picnics, having festivals, and enjoying time with families and friends. We do not mean to ignore the terrible tragedy of the storms and floods that have ravaged much of the central United States in recent days and weeks. Rather, we only wish to observe what the meaning of Memorial Day is and to point out that this day has come with a price.
Since the days of the American Revolution, and throughout wars and “police actions”, we have called on citizens and non-citizens to bear the burden of war and sacrifice, all in the name of protecting our freedom. It is customary to honor and “memorialize” the dead, yet almost nothing is ever said or done to remember the survivors. What about the wounded who have come back maimed, crippled, disfigured, and what about the wounded in spirit, forever changed and haunted by images of the horror, unable to cope with “normal” life?
And what about the silent suffering of the veterans who have somehow managed to carry on with their lives. They are many, and we should remember them too. America has not been fair or honorable in the manner it has called some to service. It asked blacks to fight in the civil war, but refused to give them the right to vote. Blacks were segregated into separate all-black units because whites would not serve with them. Japanese Americans were pulled from their homes and shipped to internment camps, and America had the audacity to asked some of them to serve in the Army and fight the Germans in WWII. Filipinos were imported for exploitation as cheap laborers on the farms in California, and then persuaded to fight the war in the promise of gaining citizenship.
Two names come to mind as examples: Manong Isidro P. Javier, and Manong Leo Giron. They arrived in California, virtually penniless, and had the only option of working in the fields at first. But they and all the other Filipinos were treated as second-class, and for most, there was no hope of becoming American citizens. The military services needed bodies, and it was decided to lure Filipinos into the Army and Navy by promising them citizenship. And they came...22,000 in the Army alone. but they were not allowed to be integrated, rather, separate divisions were created.
Manong Leo Giron was assigned to a commando unit, fighting behind the lines in the Philippines, hand-to-hand against the Japanese.
Manong Isidro P. Javier took his station as a gunner on deck of an aircraft carrier, fighting duels with dive bombers and kamikaze attacks. These two warriors returned from the war and were granted citizenship, but many died and were never able to achieve that coveted prize.
We, who enjoy our lives in this great country owe a debt of gratitude to all those who have served and are now serving. Our service men and women are fighting in countries where Americans are hated and despised, fighting to help people who live in ignorance and view our way of life as evil, yet, still, our soldiers and sailors carry on with pride and honor, to keep us all free.
After all his accomplishments as a self-made business man, 33rd Degree Mason, leader of his community, the proudest moment for Manong Isidro P. Javier was to be buried in his Navy uniform.
He, like millions of other great Americans just wanted to be appreciated and remembered for their contribution, and that is why I think we should all take a moment and salute our veterans, dead and living.
Thank you Manong Isidro P. Javier, and Manong Leo Giron, and thanks to all who served before you, with you, and to all who will be called to serve in the future.
By, Glen Rathbone "The Writer"