Alfred Rascon was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, but his family emigrated to California in search of a better way of life. In 1963 he graduated from high school and enlisted in the United States Army. He served in Vietnam, even though he remained an undocumented American the entire time.
During one fierce attack in March 1966, he repeatedly exposed myself to enemy fire and grenades and covered the bodies of my injured comrades before carrying them back to safety and returning to rescue another comrade and then another. He was wounded in the hip, the torso, and face, but he continued to retrieve, protect, and nurse his injured comrades until the enemy eventually broke contact. He was so badly wounded from absorbing the blast and fragments of the grenades that he was given his last rites. He was as close to death as anyone has ever been, but he survived after spent six months in recovery.
He would become a naturalized citizen after he was honorably discharged. In 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Lieutenant Colonel Rascon the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest honor, for saving the lives of his fellow soldiers, his fellow Americans. Despite his amazing sacrifice and service and the President’s recognition, most undocumented immigrants are not allowed to serve their country and many U.S. soldiers are not viewed as “American.”
All undocumented immigrants are required to register for the draft, and they have been drafted in every war since the Civil War. While there is not a draft, almost 70,000 foreign-born individuals serve in the military and over 40 percent of them are not citizens, of whom many are undocumented. More than 100 soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and earned their citizenship posthumously.
The Pentagon has said, “It would be unconscionable not to enact the Dream Act,” which would give hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants children and youths the chance to gain legal status if they attend college or the military.
The Dream Act has not passed, but what is worse is there is not ban against deporting U.S. veterans. Currently thousands of veterans are facing deportations. Hundreds have already been deported. The number is increasing due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many soldiers return home to their country only to face Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and/or homelessness. Illicit drug use and other crimes can lead to them being arrested and deported. The group, Banished Veterans, is leading the call, demanding that America stops deporting veterans. Jan A. Ruhman of the group had this to say: “I don’t know about you guys but as a veteran, I’m appalled- That somebody who I could serve with, who took the oath to protect and defend and who got an honorable discharge, who came out and made mistakes is now deportable. [...] You don’t leave anyone behind. We were all taught that and I feel like we’re leaving these guys behind.”
Homeland security is trying to deport Valente and Manuel Valenzuela, brothers who both fought in Vietnam and who continue to face PTSD and poisoning from exposure to agent orange. Their parents are indigenous, and they view themselves as nothing short of American. These brothers not only want their deportation proceedings canceled, but also their fellow comrades who have already been deported to be repatriated.
The numbers are exponentially greater when considering family members of veterans. Parents and close relatives of American soldiers have been deported. This practice makes America’s bravest feel like they fought for their country, yet their country won’t fight for them. Two wives are featured in an episode of “In Their Boots: Second Battle.” They tell their tragic stories as they face deportation and struggle to make peace with their husbands’ service, their children’s futures, and their deportations. One has been widowed and wants to raise her son in America as his father had wished before he gave his life in Iraq.
There should not be two classes of American soldiers- they are all heroes and they are all American. America should honor their sacrifice and their service and stop deporting them and their loved ones.