By Joe Guzzardi
May 13, 2016
Since 1775, nearly 2 million American military have sacrificed their lives to defend America and to protect her citizens. Whenever a young American signs a contract to serve in the armed forces, he puts his life on the line. As United States Marine Corps. General Jim Mattis, addressing Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans explained: “You signed blank checks payable with your lives to the American people,” a reference to the day corpsmen sign their contracts obligating them to serve.
Originally called Decoration Day until 1966 when President Lyndon Johnson renamed it Memorial Day, the national holiday has its roots in the Civil War and the nation’s collective desire to honor the more than 600,000 soldiers who died during the bloody four-year conflict.
Since 1968 when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act that created three-day weekends for Veterans, Columbus, George Washington and Memorial Day, Veterans of Foreign Wars and other organizations that work on behalf of needy or disabled vets feel that the day of remembrance has been diminished. They worry that more Americans associate Memorial Day with summer’s unofficial beginning. As the VFW explained in its 2002 statement, “Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed a lot to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.” In 1987 Hawaii’s Senator Daniel Inouye, a World War II veteran, introduced a measure to return Memorial Day to its traditional May 30 date, and continued albeit unsuccessfully to introduce his resolution until his 2002 death.
But in post-America—the current era when the United States is perceived as in decline and with multiculturalism on the rise—who should serve in the military has become a political football complete with nasty Capitol Hill infighting. Although it would have been inconceivable 50 years ago during the Johnson administration, Congress has made a significant push to enlist illegal immigrants in the U.S. military. A 2014 effort to add an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act would have given new alien enlistees a legal permanent residency green card, and an eventual path to citizenship. The amendment’s timing was curious. In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced plans to cut back U.S. Army forces to World War II levels. The strategy seemed to be displace American soldiers and replace them with unlawful immigrants.
The American Legion, the nation’s largest wartime veteran’s service organization, staunchly opposed the amendment and was critical in the measure’s defeat. Through a representative, the legion said that its long-standing policy remains that it opposes any legislative action that amounts to amnesty.
President Obama, however, circumvented Congress, and found a way to sign up illegal immigrants. Late in 2014, the Defense Department created the Military Accessions in the National Interest program that would allow a maximum of 1,500 aliens to enlist including some that may have qualified for the president’s deferred action for childhood arrivals and others that might be in the U.S. on temporary visas. Allegedly, those 1,500 would have special language skills.
Illegal immigrants in the armed forces outrages millions. Many Americans fear that foreign nationals may still have their primary allegiances to their birth countries. Also, their illegal entry, however it occurred, nevertheless violates the oath to support and defend the Constitution that, upon enlisting, they will swear to uphold.
Regardless of individual opinions about illegal immigration, Americans should do their part on Memorial Day to honor fallen heroes. Established in 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance recommended one minute of silence at 3:00 PM local time to reflect on the ultimate sacrifices thousands made to provide the freedoms Americans enjoy. Even in post-America, this simple 60-second gesture should be done by all.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]