AN OPEN LETTER TO THE NATION
From Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo
My Fellow Americans:
As debates over illegal immigrants rend at the fabric of our unity, I raise a question of the treatment of a group of our own citizens and their civil rights.
For decades, Guam has fought for the rights of our people as U.S. citizens living in an unincorporated U.S. Territory. To this day, men and women from Guam, who defend democracy with as much fierce determination as their fellow veterans, are denied the right to vote for their Commander-In-Chief.
Our island of Guam is an American stronghold in the western Pacific and the “tip of the spear” in safeguarding our national security. Our people are among the most patriotic of Americans:
- Guam has the highest per-capita enlistment in the U.S. military
- 1 out of every 8 Guamanians has served in the U.S. Armed Forces
- The casualty rate for Guam service members in Iraq and Afghanistan is 450% higher than the national average
- Four thousand U.S. patriots are buried at the Guam U.S. Veterans Cemetery
- One-third of prime land is occupied by U.S. naval and air force bases
So many of Guam’s veterans laid down their lives, and thousands more fought and bled on foreign shores in the service of America’s noblest ideal — the defense of democracy. Today, sons and daughters of Guam continue that legacy of service. Yet, not one of these U.S. citizens can participate in the democratic process with a vote for the American President.
This tragic irony affects thousands of our American citizens and military veterans living across the U.S. territories. “Equal in war, unequal in peace,”was the phrase used by the late congressman from Guam to Washington D.C., Brigadier General Ben Blaz, USMC (Ret.), to explain the plight of the U.S. Territories.
Would this action be permitted towards veterans living in Brooklyn or in the small towns of Illinois? Would this denial be allowed anywhere else towards those who gave their very lives for our nation’s beliefs?
A Guamanian-American author, Joseph W. Duenas, the son of a 27-year veteran of the U.S. Army penned the poem “America, My Irony”. It is a memorial poem about the heroes laid to rest at the Guam U.S. Veterans Cemetery. His message resonates with our veterans, our military families, the U.S. citizens of Guam, and all brothers-and sisters-in-arms across the United States:
“And stacked four-high in concrete crypts, the U.S. soldiers lie, no voice or vote for president, democracy denied.”
American veterans residing in Guam and other U.S. territories have served our nation tirelessly for generations now, advocating with force of arms to protect our rights.
At a time of heated national debate, when voices are raised high for the rights of non-citizens and immigrants, whose voices are raised for their rights?
My fellow Americans, we have fallen short in advocating for the rights of our most honored citizens — our veterans. It is time to right this wrong. Where there is a veteran, there must be a vote.
EDDIE BAZA CALVO is the Governor of Guam and a U.S. citizen who cannot vote for president.
Click here to view “America, My Irony”, read by Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio.
Facebook link: https://bit.ly/2vRom51
Click here to read the letter from the Governor of Guam to the President of the United States.