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Remembering the stories of Hispanic soldiers so they won’t be forgotten

While proudly recounting his time in the service, retired Major General Freddie Valenzuela challenges the military to promote a new attitude towards recognizing and remembering Hispanic soldiers’ contributions.

LatinaLista — Retired Major General Freddie Valenzuela, a decorated 33-year Army veteran and author of the book “No Greater Love: The Lives and Times of Hispanic Soldiers” (Ovation Books, September 2008) has some war stories to share.

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The surprising part is that most of the battlefield memories are not his own. They are those of the 21 soldiers whose military burials he presided over while he was in the service: Specialist Rodrigo Gonzalez-Garza, a non-citizen and the first soldier killed in the Iraq War; Pfc. Analaura Esparza-Guitierrez, who died by a roadside bomb while filling in as a convoy driver for a sick colleague or Chief Warrant Officer 2 Lawrence Shane Colton who perished in an Apache helicopter hit by enemy rocket fire as he was delivering air support.

General Valenzuela felt compelled to share, along with his own memories, the stories of these brave soldiers, because he fears that they will be forgotten.

Yet, Valenzuela’s book is not just about recounting the heroic exploits of young soldiers. Nor does it follow the traditional outline of a biography in fondly reminiscing the past. In fact, it’s a far cry from a love letter to the military.

Valenzuela makes it clear that there are elements about the military that trouble him when it comes to recognizing, promoting and remembering Hispanic soldiers’ contributions to the service.

Valenzuela remembers the times when he felt expressly discriminated against as he climbed the chain of command. In his book, he calls on the military to recognize this institutionalized practice and address the overall issue of the lack of diversity among the higher ranks.

Though he gently scolds the military for their lack of leadership in providing equal opportunities to all soldiers, Valenzuela reiterates his deep love for military service. In the process, he strives to provide new and future soldiers with advice on how to navigate the system if pursuing a military career.

Since family is a major component of an enlisted soldier’s life, General Valenzuela recruited his wife and son to each pen a chapter of the book as well to offer their perspectives on how life in the military affects everyone from the spouse to the children.

“No Greater Love: The Lives and Times of Hispanic Soldiers” delivers an honest assessment of life in the military for soldiers of color and ends on a challenging note to keep the stories of Hispanic soldiers, who died while serving their country, alive for future generations.

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