Minority veterans shouldn’t have to pick between pride in heritage, pride in serving

Ramiro Detrinidad, Staff Writer

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It was my first year in the Navy and I was proud to have the privilege to serve, receiving gratitude from what I perceived to be genuinely kind people who saw a young man serving his country.

I had no concept that this respect only came when my uniform was on.

One day, I left the confines of Sheppard Air Force Base in Northern Texas to eat at a diner. I wasn’t wearing my uniform.

“Sorry but I have a big party coming in a bit I can’t seat you sir,” the waitress said as I look at a mostly empty diner. Walking out confused, I informed both my friends, one wearing his uniform, that they couldn’t accommodate us.

In a passive rage, all three of us marched rigidly into the diner. Immediately the waitress noticed my uniformed friend and began to apologize to me.

“I am so sorry, I didn’t know you were a member of our military honey. I will get you a piece of pie on the house.”

Does the fact that I served in the Military make me less Hispanic?

I realized putting on the uniform gave me a free pass from someone else’s prejudice and all of the sudden my heritage, my overall identity, was diluted just enough for “real Americans” to accept me.  

This isn’t an isolated situation. In fact, despite non-white Americans being most likely to serve in the military, we still endure frequent racist rants, especially when we don’t actively broadcast our service or wear our uniform.

The stigma around this occurrence is very well-known to the point where some minorities that have once served refuse to talk about it or even acknowledge it. Many go as far as accepting that the only way to mitigate such an event is to “get with the program” and dilute their identity that they once were proud of.

Historically, minorities have always been denied the recognition and glory that they have earned through our relentless display of patriotism whether it has been black, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian. We have only recently begun to recognize military heroes of minority backgrounds.

Offering a piece of pie or giving a free meal to a veteran that is a minority won’t change the fact that individuals actively practice prejudice. The waitress not knowing I was military didn’t change the fact that it was okay for her to refuse service to me simply for being Hispanic.

I shouldn’t have to choose between country and heritage, they are all part of the same identity.

At the end of the day, all veterans that served are proud Americans, but we are also proud individuals.

So no, your free piece of pie won’t make me forgive your prejudice, it will only remind me of your ignorance.

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