HUDSON | Ready to defend their country regardless of race — or immigration status
Author: Miller Hudson - November 12, 2018 - Updated: November 11, 2018
There will be ample opportunity and the advantage of temporal distance to bloviate regarding the results of last week’s election returns in Colorado. But as I write this, it is Armistice or Veterans Day – a day to remember. I wear my grandfather’s 26thConstruction Company dog tag from World War I, together with my father’s and my own Navy tags from World War II and Viet Nam. They remind me daily of how three generations of Hudson men spent a portion of our youth during the 20thCentury. I believe that service shaped us into better and more tolerant fathers. (It also amuses me to consider the confusion these tags will cause the EMT who handles my remains. Each says, “Miller Hudson”.)
In the case of my grandfather, he had already returned to the United States from the Western Front by November 11 of 2018. He had been gassed in the trenches and subsequently contracted tuberculosis. An Oklahoma boy, he was transferred to Fort Bliss in El Paso to recover. The dry heat seems to have done the trick and he was discharged back to civilian life in 1921. My father, who served on a Pacific minesweeper, would not reach home until eighteen months after VJ day. In the chaos of the Philippines’ evacuation, maps of American minefields laid throughout the archipelago were lost or forgotten, an oversight for which my Dad held Douglas MacArthur personally responsible. His return home was delayed in order to clear shipping channels – a risky business. My twin brother and I were nearly two before he could use the GI bill to complete his engineering degree at New Mexico A&M in Las Cruces.
My own release came early following a ‘reduction in force’ authorized as the Viet Nam conflict began to wind down in 1970. One of the first things I learned from military service is the fact that an individual’s ethnicity, race, religion, education or immigration status are among the least important qualities for a soldier or sailor. This truth grows particularly salient if and when your safety, even survival, is at risk. Qualities of alertness, loyalty, bravery, brotherhood and initiative are far more important. Skin color is utterly irrelevant. And it is equally irrelevant to our enemies on the battlefield. Once Americans pull on their uniforms, they look alike to those we fight, whether they were Viet Cong then or ISIS terrorists today.
Ten years ago Jim Radley, the Chief of my watch section, tracked me down in Denver because he and his wife were traveling from Arizona for a square dancing competition. When we met for lunch, he mentioned to me, “I knew we would get along because of what you had to say when you reported for duty.” He asked whether I remembered what that was? I didn’t have the slightest idea what I might have said forty years earlier, so he reminded me. You announced, ”I’m Ensign Hudson. The good news is that I will be in charge now. The bad news is that the only thing I know about communications is how to spell it. The rest of my job you’ll have to teach me.” I couldn’t help grinning after hearing his story and responded, “I hope I would have the good sense to say the same thing today.”
Since 9/11 millions of American troops have served in harm’s way around the globe. Both President Bush and Obama, although not yet Trump, visited these forward observers for democracy. If you were attentive to these often Holiday trips, our soldiers disproportionately consist of Americans of color. An entirely volunteer force has grown increasingly reliant on the patriotism and ambition of young men and women from disadvantaged communities. Their desire for education and economic security proves the American Dream still resides in the hearts of those who have worked the hardest to advance themselves. This is cause for celebration.
At the Democratic State Assembly in Broomfield earlier this year were a group of Latino veterans, DACA kids, who joined the military on the promise they could earn immediate citizenship in exchange for their honorable service. Not only has this promise been withdrawn, they are now threatened with deportation. I don’t know if these veterans also visited with Colorado Republicans, but I hope they did. Whatever direction immigration policy reform takes in the future, further gridlock appears likely for now. Perhaps we will choose to halt the offer of citizenship in exchange for enlistment, reversing a policy in place since the founding of our nation. Those, however, who have already put their lives at risk to protect the rest of us deserve better. The ethical obligation to keep our word to those who have served honorably should never be betrayed. To do so would be dishonorable. We are better than that, both Republicans and Democrats.