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Militar Mixta, Gracias a Todos

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PBS recently aired the documentary “Latinos Americans,”  a 6-hour presentation about “the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos who have helped shape North America over the last 500-plus years”.  Because Latin history and culture is currently my greatest passion, I watched every episode with fervor, taking notes as if for a class.

Fighting Medinas

The Fighting Medinas: Puerto Rican family of military service, circa 1943

I was surprised to find about the treatment of Latinos who served in the military, particularly Civil Rights activist, surgeon and serviceman Guy Gabaldon, who inspired the film “Hell to Eternity“, and Marcario Garcia, the first Mexican national to receive a U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor, who was later refused service at a café near his home in Texas.

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Garcia recieves the Medal of Honor from United States President Truman, 1945

Learn more about this fascinating 6-hour documentary that originally aired in September on PBS.

I am grateful times have changed and both Latinos and Americans in the military have grown to be a recognized, respected group who does more in a few days than most people do in a lifetime, serving, defending and representing our country. Some try to turn the attention to corruption and scandal in the military, but not me, and definitely not today: Veteran’s Day in the United States.

Poppy remembrance

My brother-in-law Gene always buys the poppy in remembrance of Veteran’s Day

As a traveler, I see the military often in airports and bus stations, carrying their heavy, stuffed duffel bags, usually dressed in camouflage fatigues, with dog tags jingling as they hoof it from one gate to the next. On occasion I have bought them coffee if they are in line next to me, and nearly every time I just say, “thank you,” if I am lucky enough to catch their eye. Recently, I learned  through the Gratitude Campaign that many people do this on a regular basis when traveling among our soldiers.

Today I am reflecting on veterans and military servicepersons who have touched my life, both personally and from afar. When I was living in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco México I had the fortune of meeting a Marine who worked with Special Forces, training and assisting with both the Méxican and US Marines. We quickly struck up a close friendship and I was charmed by his wit, street smarts, and genuine demeanor.

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Dinner with mi amigo Marino in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco México

My amigo Marino rarely spoke about his work, but I sensed it was pretty heavy. Generally, he was lively, engaging and thoughtful, but he assured me that the rest of the time, he had a serious regard for his job. Since my amigo Marino often worked several days in a row without a break, I was honored when he wanted to volunteer his Saturday off by picking up trash in the Rio Cuale as part of La Brigada de la Basura. The kids were excited to have a strong male to carry bags with, and he appeared proud to mentor them in taking pride in their neighborhood.

con los chicos de la brigada

Con los chicos de La Brigada de la Basura, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco MX

On this Veteran’s Day I send huge thanks to those who have served, those who are still enlisted, and those who have intentions of joining our armed services. You are all heroes in your own way, and to those of us you protect and serve, in every way. Gratitude and love to you all, including (and especially) my dad, Holly, Mark, Cheryl, Jaymi, Tom and extra-especialmente, mi amigo Marino. 

Author: Kate Dana

Teacher, traveler and writer living on the Caribbean coast of South America.

One thought on “Militar Mixta, Gracias a Todos

  1. This was so fine.  I remember the war years and singing on our local radio station(age 9).  I dedicated the song to “my Uncle Bill” (Van Kleeck) who was storming the beaches of Italy. My Dad was an air raid warden on our street and we practiced blackouts in case of enemy air raids.  Thanks to the bravery of men like Uncle Bill, it never happened.  Thanks to those who came after, hopefully, it never will. Love, Mom XO