Tired of the negativity of this long, protracted political campaign? Keep reading. This may lift your spirit in these uncertain days.
Our community has a lot to be proud of, for instance, Sgt. Roy Benavídez, whose extraordinary act of heroism earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor, the country’s highest distinction. During combat in the Vietnam War, Sgt.
Benavídez volunteered to rescue the rest of his unit, who were all either wounded or dead. So he rushed toward his buddies facing a hailstorm of bullets and shrapnel, which hit him three times. Shooting, running and fighting, sometimes in hand-to-hand combat, he was able to rescue all his wounded comrades and survive the ordeal.
But Sgt. Benavídez is not alone in the country’s pantheon of heroes. A total of 61 Latinos have been awarded the Medal of Honor. And 17 of them received it only two years ago, after decades of their heroic acts being ignored because of their ethnic background. Only two of them received it in person from President Obama at a White House ceremony —SSgts. Santiago Erevia and José Rodela. The rest were awarded posthumously.
All of them, and many more who fought in other wars, did it for their country, the United States, for their communities, their families, so that our legitimate place in this society would be recognized.
Many others fought on the streets, legislatures and courts to defend our civil rights, such as the right to vote and our right to a clean environment. We Latinos are disproportionately impacted by fossil fuel pollution, coming from coal, oil and gas, which translates into painfully high rates of asthma, emphysema, heart disease, cancer and premature death. This bombardment not only affects our health and wellbeing but also impedes our ability to prosper and progress.
The countless contributions of Latinos to this country are extraordinary. There are 60 million of us, the largest ethnic group in the US. And in this election cycle, at least 13.1 million of us are expected to vote, a formidable block that may very well decide the presidential election and many other races.
On November 8th you will have the opportunity to speak your mind. It’ll be a day to remember who accepts us with open arms; who fights for clean air and water; who supports a bright, clean future for your children and the fight against the climate crisis.
On November 8th we will be able to honor the sacrifices of Sgts. Benavídez, Erevia and Rodela, and hundreds of thousand others who gave it all, even their lives, for you and me to be full members of this society. Honor them by using your power to vote for your family’s future.
Javier Sierra is a Sierra Club columnist. Follow him on Twitter @javier_SC .