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Soldiers but Not Citizens

May 31, 2003

Re "Green Card Marines," series, May 25-28: The U.S. has used noncitizens in the military for centuries. Some of those who fought in foreign regiments from France, Poland and Germany were allowed to stay and settle in the new U.S. Slaves were offered the opportunity to earn their freedom during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. But even earning their freedom did not guarantee the rights of citizenship.

Neither the black soldiers who fought in the Civil War nor the Irish regiments of New York were guaranteed the rights of citizenship. Not until 1868, with the passage of the 14th Amendment, was birth in the U.S. a guarantee of citizenship, and that law was passed in an attempt to rectify the American holocaust known as slavery.

In Vietnam, I served with "green card" personnel from Mexico, Panama, Poland and other countries, all of whom gained citizenship along with their Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars when they went home.

Far too many who are born here do not realize what a privilege it is to be a citizen of this country, or the duty and obligation to protect the rights bestowed upon us. We should take a minute to think about what we have and thank those who gave all they had to guarantee we keep it -- no matter where they came from.

David Hewitt

Santa Monica

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You identify Jose Antonio Gutierrez as an "American hero" (May 25). It is true that his accomplishments were remarkable, but they were based on deceit, hardly an identifier for a hero. This is a sad yet telling tale of what happens when people bring children into this world without the ability to care for them. His father and Guatemala deserted Gutierrez.

A young man searching for a family and a future finds his way into this country and stays here using deceit. His accomplishments are remarkable, supported by taxpayer generosity and the compassion of his community.

It was nice that the real reason he joined the Marines -- to find direction and funding for a college education -- was made clear. Many young men and women have followed this path. Until recently they weren't concerned about fighting wars, only maintaining peace. Now we will thank Gutierrez for his service by sending his sister a quarter of a million dollars. Gutierrez was not an American hero, but he showed remarkable determination to overcome difficult odds.

Judy McLaughlin

Simi Valley

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