A friend asked me about fourteen years ago, whether my dad had seen action during World War II, and when I explained that he had participated in the Battle of Okinawa, he remarked reverently, “Oh, your father was a warrior.” Those words sent me reeling back 16 years to the morning of my father’s funeral where he was eulogized with the very same words. Later that evening, I felt compelled to write a letter about him which, I recognize now, was my first, hopeful attempt to acknowledge the experiences that shaped him and to appreciate how they may have influenced our complicated relationship. However, I had no inkling my putting pen to paper that night would be the catalyst for this evolving Latino Warrior Project.
The ensuing research has been both educational and enlightening, for I have discovered astounding accounts of Latinos’ peacetime achievements and wartime heroics, many of them accomplished by men and women who dealt simultaneously with discrimination and segregation in their day-to-day lives! The more I studied, the more I wondered, “Shouldn’t I know this? Everyone should know this!” So, here I am, fourteen years later, still working to share what I learn.
My personal journey has been punctuated with both physical and emotional trials: a diabetes diagnosis at 19, temporary partial blindness, 18 heart procedures and surgeries, a mini stroke, a major heart attack, and 13 jolts by an implanted defibrillator 10 days before the heartbreaking loss of my 24-year-old daughter to cancer. What helped me survive? I’m sure it was the inspiration I took from indigenous warriors past whose genes many Latinos carry. I call it the Spirit of the Latino Warrior.
“Latinos” (a questionable classification at best) have long been underrepresented in history books, but we have been an integral part of every society for centuries, and our influence is growing exponentially. It is my honor to share these incredible stories of courage, pride, and faith in the second edition of the Latino Warrior Project.