Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hispanics in US Marines: What kind of citizens do they make?

Miguel Vazquez

A familiar calling might have led Miguel Vazquez to enlist in the U.S. armed forces: for generations, many of his relatives decided to serve his country with weapons and joined the ranks of the Marines.
But his day of calling was September 11, 2001. When American Airlines Flight 11, controlled by five hijackers crashed into the north tower of World Trade Center. He thought, like many compatriots, it was an accident.
The second attack on the south tower, dispelled the theory of chance and became "a sign or symbol" of what should be his life: his response to the attacks was to run to join the military.
"It was a moment when I heard that the government declared that we were in an emergency. September 11 made me feel that I should get ahead of others, many people who needed my services," said the former soldier, now dedicated to finance a family business in California.

"It was also the moment when I realized that we had powerful enemies who were willing to hurt many people, beyond the enemies that we had faced in the past."
In 2002, at age 19, Vazquez, Latino, became a soldier. By then, the list of U.S. military recorded 12.9% of registered Hispanic, according to the Heritage Foundation.

Born of Puerto Rican father and Mexican mother (from the state of Tamaulipas), the young man now aged 28, is a Hispanic second generation sees America as "the only country that I can consider as my home."
Although fluent in Spanish, when speaking of memories he prefers to use the language in which he was educated at school and the neighborhood. Memory speaks in English for him and emotions are expressed in half sentences.
"I never talk about the Sept 11.  I do not know why, it's weird, confusing ... sorry ..." doubt, breathe deeply, is silence. "It's hard to relive the day that marked a before and after, not only for me but for a whole country, and it is hard to think of everything that came after."

At the Pentagon

Watching television, Vazquez received the news that the third attack in September: American Flight 77 had reached the Pentagon, the heart of the U.S. Department of Defense.
His father was there, unhurt, but young Vazquez didn't know until later:  in the chaos of the moment, his father was unable to communicate over telephone lines what sort of luck he had had.
Sept 11 made Vazquez feel the need for unity in the country.
"It was the first time I felt I had something bigger and more important than myself. The first time the country needed to unite, not only as a country on paper, but basically in order to survive," he says.
Although he had wanted to be in the military, the bombings gave his mission a sense of history: "I knew it would be part of history, it was a moment of profound change and I wanted to share."
His parents opposed his project and tried to dissuade him, not for lack of principle, but fear: they assumed that, for the first time, one member of their military family actually would go to war.
And there he was. The U.S. Marine Corps took him to Iraq in 2003 for the initial invasion and then in 2004 as part of the operation to regain control of Fallujah.

"The pride of a Marine is related to the team spirit that is built in to everything you do with your fellow soldiers. Being in the field, I was responsible not only for those who were fighting next to me but for all people who were here in my country, [the USA] "reveals Vázquez.

One of the provisions of the Dream Act debated, but defeated, in congress this last year, would have allowed young immigrants to earn US citizenship through service in the US military.  There are a lot of parents in the US who would die to call Miguel Vázquez their son.

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