Remembering Veterans This Day November 11, 2019
One the author's five tíos, Louis Reyna, who went into the tank corps in 1944, enjoying the snow at the tank corps training site before he was to be shipped out. Luckily, the war ended before he actually saw combat, but he was ready. One didn't often see snow in San Antonio. His other tíos also served in the WWII effort.
A debt we can never repay
by Armando Rendón
What kind of bravery is it that endures
What our elders did to keep us safe from harm?
Millions of us now can look back in awe
At the thought of how our elders went to war.
Imagine the selflessness it took to don a uniform
To hoist a rifle to shoulder and later on
Be called upon to kill another human being,
What courage to march off to unknown shores,
To beaches where many drew their last breath
To hills and forests that they wrenched
From the enemy with their death.
Time takes its toll in their numbers,
Yet long may they live in our memories,
Their struggle never to be forgotten,
Kept alive in our minds and our actions
To preserve not only their valor in battle,
But their undying sense of freedom,
Their willingness to die for a dream
Even at the cost of a lifetime.
They came from every walk of life,
From the fields, from construction sites,
And from the schools, where opportunity
Was put on hold, often never to be fulfilled.
They left behind family that well understood
The sacrifice they were about to make:
Mothers and fathers let go their sons
Who spoke so easily of coming back
Real soon, of bringing home grand stories
Of places and peoples they’d seen.
The elders, los abuelitos, would pray each night
And through the days for their return.
Those that did return would be changed,
Some would pick up their old ways
And not make much of their time in war;
Others would return with eyes wide open
To new horizons and seek recompense
Not because they had fought and earned
With their blood and sweat new opportunities
But because they realized these rights
And doors had been theirs all along to take.
And there are the many that died on a beach,
In a trench, trapped below decks, or in a plane.
They were never to know the joy of return
To family and friends, to a sweetheart,
And to familiar streets that they had made safe.
Gallant men they were, fighting for a country
That up to then had exploited their labors,
That had belittled their values and manhood,
A country that had called them spics and greasers,
And left to them the hardest jobs to do
While scholars found them to be lazy and built
Low the better to handle the short hoe in the fields.
The War took many lives of Latinos
But in their blood was sown a new awareness
And a thirst for change they’d not known before.
The War, in the ironic way of all wars,
Gave new vision where little could be seen
Beyond the tracks, the boundaries of the barrio,
New pride where a people had been beaten down,
And new hope when these warriors started back.
We raise our voices in gratefulness and joy
For all the warriors from the fields and barrios
Who took up arms for the sake of freedom,
For they showed us all how to mount the fight
And to this day take up the flag to lead the way,
To take the field and sound the call once more.
October 29, 2007
Armando Rendón, a native of San Antonio, Texas, is the award-winning author of The Adventures of Noldo books for young adults, the author of Chicano Manifesto (1971, 1996), all of which are available as e-books, and the founder/editor of “Somos en escrito The Latino Literary Online Magazine”