My grandfather was a paratrooper who jumped on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He fought all the way to Germany, was wounded twice and won two Purple Hearts. After the war he settled in the Quad Cities, IL, married my grandmother, Gorgonia Ester Moreno and opened a barber shop. He died of Parkinson's disease, in his mobile home, the same day my daughter was born, July 13, 2003.
My grandfather was not a citizen of the United States. He moved here in his late teens from Nuevo Leon, Mexico, joined the military and fought against European fascism in this war which will forever define the way we see ourselves.
He received citizenship because of his participation and honorable service during the war; a practice that dates back to the very beginning of our country.
There are around 35,000 non-citizens serving in the military today. A fast track route to naturalization is incredibly appealing to the around 8,000 new non-citizens who enlist every year.
Like many veterans, my grandfather took a lot of demons back home with him after seeing the worst part of human nature. When he came back he was addicted to morphine. He kicked that only to become an alcoholic for the rest of his life. He never drank before the war.
My grandparents eventually divorced and he became estranged from the family. I didn't see him much while I was growing up. The last time I saw him, a few years before his death, he told me stories about how cold he and his friends were during the harsh European winter of 1944/45.
My grandfather, like all veterans, was just a human being... far from perfect. He had many flaws, he was complicated, he could be mean, he could be charming and he could be pathetic.
Veterans are so much more than the one-dimensional, determined face and heroic statue they are often seen as in the abstract. They're regular people, who do extraordinary things -- which most of us couldn't mentally or physically do -- to defend themselves and the people close to them.
War is not glorious. War is repugnant. It's the worst thing humans can do, however, the world is a not a wonderful place where everyone can get along just because they should. There are a lot of bad guys who believe bad things and want to hurt us and demolish our way of life.
War should not be glorified, but the millions of individuals like my grandfather, who have defended and continue to defend us, should be. Without them and their sacrifice, there would be no us.