The book is No Greater Love: The Lives and Times of Hispanic Soldiers by Freddie Valenzuela and Jason Lemons. For full disclosure, Jason Lemons reads my blog and thought that this book would be right up my alley because my Mexican husband is a retired Army NCO. He was right. The book is up my alley and I have hesitated writing on it because I have so much to say about it.
I recommend this book for anyone who is in anyway related to the military because this book is one you will truly understand and appreciate. Freddie not only writes about his experience, but his wife and daughter also contribute to it. This book is made for all military families, not just Hispanic ones. This book is also crucial for those who love Military History and US History, as well as those who study Mexican-American History.
First, Freddie Valenzuela is one of the first highest serving Hispanic Generals in the United States Army. He writes his book to explore why Hispanic soldiers do not have more leadership positions considering they are a large minority within the US Army. For instance: Did you know that of all the Medal of Honor Recipients the US has bestowed on her soldiers, Hispanics have earned more than any other ethnic group? And of those Hispanics, a group of them who have earned the Medal of Honor have not even been US Citizens! He wants to know why Hispanics are so hard core for a country that might not even be their own. He wants to know why they are earning the HIGHEST medal our country has, but only a few Hispanics have any positions of power within the system. I tell you what, I could SO relate to what he says. I know my husband had to fight like a motha to obtain every single promotion that he earned. My husband rose to the highest ranks within the NCO Corp and he was THE only Hispanic there EVEN though there were so many Hispanics under him. I know in my husband’s case, racism and bigotry played a huge part and it is the reason my husband had to fight his three year EEOC battle. Valenzuela LOVES the US Army, something that I could not relate to. Valenzuela has much more faith in his Country and Military than I do so I read most of his book with deep skepticism.Second, I was reading along at a quick pace until I reached a section. I didn’t just read this book from a military lens. I read this book from a Catholic one, too, and I believe Valenzuela wants that because he constantly speaks about how important his Catholic Faith is to his life and his culture. The section that stopped me dead in my tracks and actually caused me to read everything he wrote afterward with more hostile eyes was the section on El Salvador. He notes WITH PRIDE his service for ARENA, the ruling military/political party in El Salvador during the 80s. This is ARENA who WITH the help of the US Government made Archbishop Oscar Romero a Saint, ARENA who committed genocide against the indigenous populations, who committed 98% of all atrocities during the civil war. ARENA who made Saints out of the Ursuline Sisters and Jesuit Priests. ARENA who backed American Evangelical Churches so as to split the influence of the Catholic Church and undermine it. I had just finished watching the movie Innocent Voices when I read this part. I have studied El Salvador and Guatemala’s civil wars for the last 10 years. I have even spoken with US Servicemen who “clandestinely” served there and they have told me horror stories about the atrocities they participated in or oversaw that continues to rob them of their peace of mind. I was sick to my stomach when I read how he bragged about his “service.” This is what he has to say for himself:
Despite the controversy that our involvement in El Salvador engendered, I remain convinced that our efforts were another success story for the United States in Central America (49).
This statement not only betrays his Catholic Faith, he betrays his fellow Hispanic brothers and sisters. When push came to shove, General Valenzuela followed his Country’s orders and not his Faith’s orders. And he remains unapolgetic. The sour taste would not leave my mouth afterward. And it makes the title of his book, words from Christ’s mouth about there being no great love than to die for your friend, ironic.