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Parade for Ramirez

May 30, 1999

Re "East L.A. Parade Honors Ramirez," May 24: The parade for Staff Sgt. Andrew Ramirez served again to remind me of the unfortunate message too many impressionable young Chicano/Latino men and women are receiving. Army, Navy and Marine recruiters make yearly canvassing missions at high schools enticing students with promises of exciting careers in military service. They give high-tech names to low-tech positions and convince hundreds to enlist at the end of June.

I grew up in East Los Angeles, blocks away from Andrew Ramirez's home. Today, I teach history to seventh- and eighth-graders in the same neighborhood. I wish they could see all the Yale-, Harvard-, UCLA- and Berkeley-bound East L.A. students paraded in the same manner. I teach my students to learn about and respect those Chicano/Latino veterans who have so proudly served and whose contributions they do not learn about in their history books. Yet, I also teach my students that the only real solution to world conflict is to get into a four-year college. It is there that they will learn to truly serve their country by acquiring the tools to prevent all wars.

CARLOS CASTILLO, East Los Angeles

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As I watched news coverage of the parade honoring Ramirez, it reminded me of my return from Vietnam. After serving seven months in combat and 19 months in Army hospitals recovering from my injuries, I came home to a country reluctant, at best, to honor its veterans. Veterans benefits here in California were and still are rather limited at best. No parades, no Rev. Jesse Jackson or Army Secretary Louis Caldera leading the cheers.

I once made the mistake, while on convalescent leave, of leaving my dress green uniform jacket with decorations hanging in my brand new Volkswagen while attending a Joan Baez concert at UCLA. When I returned to my car it had been painted with graffiti "honoring" my service to the country. Somehow the support of this war and its victims on both sides seems grotesque and somehow misdirected.

JAMES KOONTZ, Diamond Bar

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