Today is Veterans Day. From the time I woke up this morning to just a few minutes ago, every other social media post today has been about Veterans and remembering their contributions to our country. It has been a welcome diversion from the recent election and with the divisiveness of what has transpired, it really got me thinking about my dad and his brothers and their sacrifice as Mexican-Americans to our great country.
I don’t actually know a lot about what my dad and his brothers went through when they each joined the service but I do know about the time period when they enlisted and served. I also know what my dad experienced when he was growing up in Carlsbad, New Mexico through letters I received from several of his classmates/football teammates after he passed away in 2001. I’ll share those remembrances in another post. But suffice it to say, it wasn’t all fun and acceptance back then. My dad didn’t talk much about it, choosing to just tell certain stories without any reference to discrimination or unfairness. I think that was his way of just working hard and getting ahead. I admire that in him because later in life, it served me well as I grew up overseas and in Puerto Rico during my formative years.
I wish I knew more about dad’s time in service to our country. I regret that I didn’t talk to him about this but then again, there is no guarantee that he would have shared anything about this time either. I’ve heard that sentiment from a number of people who I know. These are memories that have remained locked away to some of those who served.
What I do have are photos, dad’s pilot logs and a few other artifacts from those years. I also have two yearbooks from his pilot training in Texas. One in particular is very touching because dad had placed check marks beside the photos of his friends who didn’t make it back during the war. I didn’t know what these check marks were until my mother shared that with me several years ago.
So as today closes out, I am grateful for the sacrifices of my dad, Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga, his brothers – Felix and Lorenzo Zuniga – and all the faces in the two yearbooks made for our country. Some paid the ultimate sacrifice and that is humbling to see in my dad’s yearbook, the faces of those brave young men who did this for our freedom.
On this Veterans Day, God Bless the brave men and women who have served this great nation of ours…