My Mom, Eunice Martens Jones, was born just as World War 1 was ending. She grew up in a German-American community south of Eden. Her father was an immigrant from Hamburg, Germany, and her maternal grandmother had immigrated from Bremen. Grandma Martens told me in the 1960s that the community of German-Americans had been viewed with suspicion and some hostility during WW1, even though they were loyal Americans. That was not an uncommon situation across the country during that war.
During both World Wars, German-Americans stepped forward to fight German forces. That is the unique feature of America. We are a nation of immigrants and a nation that foreign-born settlers believe is worth protecting with their lives, even in hostilities with their former countrymen. Those who serve and protect the nation are deserving of our trust, thanks and respect, regardless of where they were born.
Shortly after I was born, Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were rounded up and forced to live in camps sprinkled around the west, including the Minidoka Internment Camp located about 6 miles from my home. They were regarded as untrustworthy, even though the majority were American citizens. Many of their sons fought the Axis Powers in Europe and many gave their lives for this country—their country. Their unit, the 442 Infantry Regiment was the most highly decorated unit in U.S. military history. Those brave American earned and deserve our thanks and respect.
Several years ago, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son, Captain Humayun Khan, died in 2004 while serving this country in Iraq, were disrespected by some for standing up for basic American values. It had much to do with the fact that the parents had immigrated from Pakistan and, with their deceased son, were members of the Muslim faith. This Gold Star family and their son were entitled to our respect and thanks.
On October 28, a Ukrainian-American serviceman was attacked by Fox News and others for honoring a lawful subpoena to testify before a Congressional committee. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman and his twin brother, Yevgeny, were born to a Jewish family in Ukraine and came to this country 40 years ago as 3-year-olds. Both have provided distinguished military service to this country over the last two decades.
Alexander is a combat veteran who has received numerous decorations, including a Purple Heart for injuries caused by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2004. He and his brother both work for the National Security Council in the White House, for which they have top security clearances. They are patriots who deserve the thanks and respect of their fellow Americans.
Unfortunately, some with Fox News did not see it that way. Hosts Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade questioned Alexander’s loyalty, which played into the dangerous old trope about divided national loyalties on the part of members of the Jewish diaspora. John Yoo, a Fox regular suggested Alexander’s obeyance of the lawful subpoena could constitute “espionage.” Wow! This comes from the guy who wrote the notorious “torture memos” during the so-called War on Terror. Thanks to the interrogation techniques approved by Mr. Yoo, we still have not been able to send the 9-11 terrorists to trial.
The point is that those who put their lives on the line to serve this great nation deserve our thanks and respect, regardless of their country of birth, race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or other distinguishing factors. We should hold our veterans in high regard even if they served in an unpopular war like Vietnam or in a largely forgotten war like Korea. Service to country—service above self-- is the name of the game. Let’s stand up in unity to honor all of our veterans and active duty service personnel this Veterans Day, November 11.