Helena Rodriguez: Remember the real reason for Memorial Day


By Helena Rodriguez

Guest Columnist

I remember the oval-shaped frame with the black and white photo of my mom — a 3-year-old at the time — with Grandma Emma and Grandpa Santiago.

That photo stared at me a big part of my childhood.

Grandpa Santiago was in his Army uniform, a U.S. flag in the background. In the 1960s, many of these military photos hanging in Hispanic homes became shrines for soldiers who never returned.

I remember the 1970s song by Little Joe and the Latinaires, “A La Guerra Ya Me Llevan,” a sad corrido about a soldier drafted into Vietnam, a 19-year war that ended when I was 8 years old.

I was too young to know and remember. And when Grandpa Santiago was killed in Germany in World War II, I wasn’t even born yet.

And yet on Memorial Day, we’re told to remember. Remember what? Not the car clearance sales and barbecues.

For me, Memorial Day has become a time to remember what I didn’t know. And yet now the freedoms my grandfather and others died for are becoming increasingly at stake; in particular, our religious liberties.

Some people say that what we don’t know can’t hurt us. Wrong!

Let me tell you what I don’t know. I don’t know the painful look that etched deep into Grandma Emma’s face when she got the news of my grandpa. I don’t know the stench of war. I don’t know the deafening sounds and horrific sights of bombs.  My memories are of the stories Mom told me and of TV footage and photographs.

We live in a generation of entitlement. What will it take for you to fight for what you believe in?

I’m reminded of the saying by Martin Niemöller, “First they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out …. then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out…”

Now they seem to be coming after Christians, and not just abroad. Who is next?

Helena Rodriguez is a Portales native. Contact her at Helena-Rodriguez@hotmail.com

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