RICK’S COLUMN

Mariana Islands and our Chamorro people, a veteran population like no other

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Veterans Day just passed. Many of our families and friends celebrated the event in a variety of ways that included informal holiday remembrances, going to Mass, visiting gravesites, placing wreaths, attending formal holiday events, or relaxing. 

During this holiday we think about family members, those who have long passed, and those who have recently passed. We think about those injured and those killed-in-action and those who recently left the military. Thus, for so many Chamorro and Chamolinian families, Veterans Day is important. 

The Deep Blue Ocean continent warrior class—the Chamorro people of the Marianas

Even though our Chamorro civilization in the Marianas holds a politically subordinated position and is collectively invisible throughout much of the American empire, no other community of American citizens quite meets, captures, and reflects the depth and breadth of our collective experience when it comes to wartime battlefield presence, participation, associations, and history tied to the profession of arms.  

Our great grandparents, grandparents, parents, uncles, aunties, cousins, and friends have deep legacies connected to pre-war, wartime, and post-war environments, where the vast majority of Guam based Chamorro families were loyal to the United States. In the northern islands most of our Chamorro families before World War II were loyal to the Japanese because of Japan’s control of the CNMI prior to the war. 

Pacific Islanders have worn the colors of the American military empire as members of the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard, serving with honor and dignity. Many families, including this writer’s family, claim two, three or more generations of military service. While this may be common throughout our Deep Blue Pacific Ocean civilization, it is not common, nor it is commonly seen throughout the American empire to the degree that it is seen in our island chain. 

Military families, Gold Star families and more

Our Mariana Island chain is also home to the mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends of Chamorros and villagers who were killed in action, injured during war, or training for war.

We cannot and must not forget Gold Star families residing throughout the Marianas because their immediate loved ones died during war. 

Are all Gold Star family members able to immediately access and utilize all resources available to Gold Star families living elsewhere? If not, why not? 

Do the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Coast Guard and Guam Guard organizations have full-time Gold Star Family coordinators responsible for assisting immediate family members with grief counseling, financial counseling services and other services on a fulltime basis? If not, why not? 

Is there an immediate need to have the Guam and CNMI Members of the U.S. Congress introduce authorizing legislation that will deliver full parity to all Gold Star families living throughout our island chain? 

How is success and failure being measured in terms of care provided to our Gold Star families throughout the Marianas?

What resources are available to the family members of veterans who committed suicide? What enabling legislation is needed to help these families cope with the loss of loved ones?  

Service record reviews for possible Medal of Honor ratings for our Chamorro warriors are needed now

To date, not one Chamorro veteran has ever been awarded the Medal of Honor. It remains unclear just how much effort Congress and the Pentagon have given to thoroughly reviewing the files of Chamorro warriors who fought in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, or other conflicts. 

Has Congress recently sponsored legislation to ensure that military veterans of Chamorro ancestry have their files thoroughly reviewed for the Medal of Honor? If not, why not? 

VA Regional Medical Center

Guam and the Mariana Islands remain without a comprehensive Veterans Administration Medical Center that provides full medical and mental health services to veterans living throughout the island chain and in the region. 

If the Pentagon can spend billions to further militarize our ancient Mariana Islands chain, they can also spend a couple of billion dollars identifying, designing, planning for, and constructing a full-blown VA Regional Medical Center in the Marianas. 

It would be a great project that would generate jobs and it would satisfy the pledge that the American national government made to all service members that they would be fully cared for after serving their country.

Retiree access to benefits must be complete and unrestricted

Military veterans who retired from service need to be given full and unlimited access to all military base facilities, educational benefits, medical care benefits, monetary benefits and all other benefits that are afforded retired general officers who live near major medical facilities like the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Our Chamorro military veteran retirees live in an underserved and remotely located area of the world in relation to the continental U.S. 

Has Congress recently enacted legislation that would extend the same complete suite of benefits given to powerful retired general officer types living in Washington, D.C. to military veteran retirees living throughout the Mariana Islands? If not, why not? 

Rick Perez | Author
Rick Perez used to serve in the U.S. military and has work experiences in public policy research and public affairs. He is passionate about national security and geopolitics and runs a newsletter called Guam Affairs at guamaffairs.substack.com. For questions or comments, contact Perez at rickp7839@gmail.com.

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