Chimatli
Corazon Normal

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My grandfather, Atanasio “Tony” Garcia with the locals. Note the lederhosen on the young boys.

The war stories from my grandfather only came during rare moments. He never bragged about his service nor volunteered information about his experiences in World War Two. According to my uncles and mother, my Grandpa Tony did his best to not remember what happened during the war. I’m sure he wasn’t the only one.

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Grandpa Tony before the war. He sure loved his cars!

The stories about his service were eventually passed on to me. Being a Mexican in the US Army was a struggle in itself. He was treated as inferior and given riskier assignments and positions. However, he accepted them without protest and persevered. The document below explains how he received the Silver Star. Thanks to Hollywood films, I can imagine visually how the battle went down. More vivid to me is the story told to me by my uncle. For many years after my grandfather returned home from the war, my grandmother would sit him at the kitchen table in the morning and gingerly pick out pieces of shrapnel that were lodged in his skin. As part of the troop front-line, he caught the worst of a land mine. I wish I would have been old enough to ask my grandfather about these things but he probably wouldn’t have wanted to share them with me – too much shrapnel in his memories.

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Citation-Award of the Silver Star Medal, 83rd Division

Thankfully, my father’s time in Vietnam was a little less traumatizing. As kids, my brother and I heard all his stories and would tease him a bit when he told the same ones again and again. We would often joke “Here comes Vietnam story number 103!” after he took us to see the latest Hollywood Vietnam era film. He might not like me to speak of it but I was pleased to know he questioned his command for their racist practices. Unfortunately, this got him in substantial trouble but he says he has no regrets. I’m proud to know I come from a family of folks who are not afraid to speak their minds and stand up for their rights.

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My father looking very young and handsome!

3 Responses to “Veteran’s Day”

  • cindylu Says:

    i’m glad people like you share the stories of your grandpa and father. it’s sad that mainstream accounts of ww2 and other wars fail to address the racism in the armed services and the contribution of men of all colors.

  • Chimatli Says:

    Thanks Cindy for the comment!
    It’s not just Ken Burns who didn’t include Chicanos in his documentaries. Many filmmakers neglected to include Chicanos in their depictions of the Vietnam War too – an oversight my father finds very insulting.

  • cHRISTIAN Says:

    My pops left Lincoln Heights at 16 moved to SGV Arcadia drafted at 18 to Vietnam in 68 served in the US Army Big Red One Unit. i came along in 71 and heard all the crazy stories also,man my dad hated the hollywood nam movies he always would say how it was 10 times bloodier and racism was extremely prevalent at that time.

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