Latinos Lured to the Military

A Laredo high school graduate became a Marine, with tragic results.
This piece was produced in collaboration with Latino USA. Please visit their site for the audio version of this story.

Elizabeth Holguin wears her son’s dog tags to keep his memory alive. September 15, 2023 / Reynaldo Leaños Jr./ Texas Observer - he house on Sabana Lane in Laredo is a repository of memories. Military posters, American flags, crosses, and photographs hang on the wall, each of them a piece of David Lee Espinoza’s story that ended in Afghanistan.

“This was his cross he was wearing when he passed, and I wear it,” said his mother, Elizabeth Holguin, grabbing the necklace in her hands. “I always feel like he’s around me.”

Espinoza, a lance corporal in the U.S. Marines, died in the waning days of the U.S. evacuation of Afghanistan when suicide bombers blew themselves up near the Kabul airport on August 26, 2021. Twelve other service members, about half of them Latino, and more than 150 Afghans perished in the attack.

Born just months before the war began, Espinoza was one of the last to die when America’s longest war came to an end. He was 20.

Espinoza is one of an estimated 7,000 American service members who lost their lives in the post-9/11 wars that include Afghanistan and Iraq, according to Brown University’s Cost of War Project. Another 30,000 of these service members and veterans later died by suicide.

For decades, the U.S. military has targeted communities of color for recruitment. Latinos, according to the U.S. Department of Defense, make up about 18 percent of the active duty force. The numbers are even higher in the Marine Corps, in which Hispanics make up 24 percent of active duty members. Latinos are already the largest demographic group in Texas, and will account for most of the country’s population growth—60 percent—through 2050. A 2022 report from the Department of Defense showed Latinos were the fastest-growing segment of the military.


US Vets Try to Stop Students from Joining Up

Across the U.S., anti-war veterans and their allies are working together in an effort to stop the U.S. military from reaching its recruitment goals, writes Ruben Abrahams Brosbe.


July 27, 2023 / Ruben Abrahams Brosbe / Consortium News - March 20 marked the 20th anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Iraq. The war took hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, with some estimates of Iraqi casualties putting the number at over 1 million. More than 4,600 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq during and after the invasion, and thousands more have died by suicide.

Meanwhile, and not coincidentally, the U.S. military is facing its worst recruitment crisis since the end of the Vietnam War. The Defense Department’s budget proposal for 2024 outlines a plan for the military to slightly cut back on its ranks, but to reach its projected numbers, it will still need to embark on a heavy recruitment push.

Across the country, anti-war veterans and their allies are working together in an effort to stop the U.S. military from reaching its goal.

We Are Not Your Soldiers is a project of New York City-based nonprofit World Can’t Wait. The organization sends military veterans into schools to share honest stories of the harm they have caused and suffered. In doing so, they hope to prevent young people from signing up.

“I wish I had somebody who told me when I was young,” says Miles Megaciph, who was stationed in Cuba and Okinawa with the U.S. Marine Corps from 1992 to 1996. “The experiences I’ve lived, as painful as they are, and as much as I don’t like to relive them, are valuable to help future adults not live those experiences,” Megaciph told me.

“We wanted to get to the people who were going to be the next recruits,” says Debra Sweet, the executive director of World Can’t Wait. When We Are Not Your Soldiers launched in 2008, the experience was often intense for veterans.


Chicano Park Day 2023: Youth Demilitarization Space in the USA

Cassy Hernandez hosting the Project on Youth & Non-military Opportunities booth  - Photo NNOMY 2023April 22, 2023 / Jeff McDonald / San Diego Union Tribune / Barrio Logan - In the shadow of the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, on the same patch of ground where a community of poor families and immigrants was cleaved by the government in the name of progress, Maria Elena Gomez listened to the music and spoke of the struggle Chicanos have faced for generations.

The retired educator from Fallbrook, wearing a T-shirt bearing the United Farm Workers motto Si Se Puede, was among thousands of people attending the 53rd annual Chicano Park Day festival on Saturday.

“We are still trying to get fair representation for the under-served and the undocumented,” said Gomez, whose own education started later than most, at 31, due to detours of her own making and those imposed by others. “But it doesn’t negate the fact that we have a lot of young people learning about what’s going on.”

What was going on — for the first time in person since 2019 due to the pandemic — was vintage lowriders and food and music and booths, lots of booths.

More important: the celebration of Chicano culture, which has not always been celebrated, and organizing.

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