He gallantly gave his life for his country.
– US Army Center of Military History describing Pfc. Fernando Luis Garcia, who was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico and served as a US Marine in Korea. He died by throwing himself on top of a grenade that would have killed a fellow Marine.
Garcia is one of 61 Hispanic Americans that have earned the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military distinction, since the Civil War, when it was first created. 17 of these medals were recently awarded by President Obama to veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam who had initially been passed over because of racial and ethnic discrimination. You can learn more about all recipients and current nominees at the Hispanic Medal of Honor Society’s website.
US Latino patriotism dates back to the birth of our nation. Among others, Jorge Farragut, originally from the Spanish island of Minorca, fought in the Revolutionary War. (His son, by the way – Admiral David Farragut – became the first ever Admiral in the US Navy and coined the term “Damn the torpedoes!”)
Women have also played a part in this legacy, such as the courageous Loreta Joneta Velasquez, of Cuban descent. She masqueraded as a Confederate soldier and spied for the Union (in both male and female disguise), in the Civil War. Learn more in a fascinating report about US Latino patriots by the Smithsonian Latino Center.
However you celebrate Memorial Day – visiting memorials honoring those who gave their lives for our freedom, enjoying a parade, joining a family get-together – don’t forget to remember all the men and women who have made it possible for you to celebrate, including over 1 million Hispanic American veterans and over 157,000 Hispanic American active duty servicemembers. We’re having fun – as I think they would want us to – because of them.
CAPITALINAS MOMENT: An American woman we should also remember – and the simple but beautiful tradition she began after World War I – is Moina Michael. A YWCA worker, she was inspired by the poem, In Flanders Fields by John McCrae. The poem references the wild red poppies that bloomed upon soldiers’ graves. They inspired Moina Michael to wear and promote the red poppy as a way to remember the sacrifice of soldiers in the war. Her idea spread to France, Canada, and England (among other countries). In these countries, the red poppy’s status as a symbol of remembrance is alive and well today. Here, however, the tradition is all but lost – unless we bring it back. Women preserve and pass on traditions – and this is one Sopapilla and I hope to help revive here in the States.
“We cherish too, the Poppy red that grows on fields where valor led. It seems to signal to the skies that blood of heroes never dies.” -Moina Michael
Wear red poppies to remember the fallen, and as a simple but poignant reminder to others to remember too. Place red poppies on your table to celebrate the life we enjoy, thanks to them. Talk to your kids about what they mean, why it’s important not to forget.
Whatever you do, just remember – and give thanks, any way you can.