My father, Robert Renaud, who's now 87, served in World War II for three years. Thank you, Maggie Rivas, Ph.D, for forcing Ken Burns to include men like my father.
Now let's talk about ending The War once and for all.
To do that, we have to remember the lessons.
My father returned to San Perlita, Texas ready to fight anyone who crossed him. He believed himself a better man than those who did not go to la guerra. To this day, he remembers his first days in the Army, his buddies, his uniform, how to salute, and the bone-breaking explosion of cannon from his driver's seat in the tank.
Daddy used to humiliate my mother because she was mexicana, and didn't speak good English like him. He thought we should bomb Vietnam into a democracy. He scoffed at Martin Luther King, Jr., as a man who "started trouble."
World War II taught my father he belonged. He took on the views of the priviliged, even though he wasn't. But ay, how he wanted to be.
Daddy beat my brother, Jorge Antonio, into a Texas prison, where he is today. He beat me almost daily, and my retarded little brother, Daniel. He couldn't believe Jorge was a genius. He hated the way I challenged him. And Daniel's diaper at six years old embarrassed him.
I love my father, and have tried to forgive him.
The War did not teach my father anything good. He says he fought for democracy, but I never saw him practice it anywhere. The only civil rights he ever wanted was for himself. Because he suffered for this country, I think he believed he would be treated equally by whites.
And that never happened. Sure, he got his medals, his pat on the back, and the false show of respect that so many veterans cling to.
But my father is a defeated man. He believes The War made him a man.
Now that we've proved we Latinos are just as capable of killing others in the name of democracy - a democracy too many men rejected when they returned home after World War II, let's honor them by remembering that War does not make heroes, much less true men.
Heroes stand up for truth and justice. This was not my father.
The Greatest Generation, I hope, is yet to come.
credits: NOAA Black History Month