On Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, the National Parks Service held a public hearing to obtain testimonies on the issue regarding the NPS’ potential takeover of a number of cultural sites on Rota. My 15-year-old son gathered his courage to stand in front of the gathered crowd and deliver his testimony in opposition to any such takeover. In addition to his own testimony, he also attempted to read a testimony of his aunt who, by virtue of health, was unable to attend in person. While trying to deliver such testimonies, he was several times rudely interrupted, berated and embarrassed by a 50-plus-year-old retired Army veteran. This veteran went completely off the subject at hand, told my son that he has been to many national parks, asked my son if he thinks about soldiers serving across seas, whether my son knows about all the federal aid given to the island, and if my son is making insults to soldiers.
To him I say this: Sir, thank you for your service. If you had no amount of intelligence to understand the subject nor clue, the issue being discussed was “federal takeover of Rota’s cultural sites,” not how many national parks you’ve been to in the mainland, not whether my son thinks about soldiers, and not about all the federal aid given to the island. My son is a young student who courageously stood in front of all of you to communicate his and his generation’s view of opposition. He did not shout insults from the back of the crowd. He did not try to embarrass nor intimidate you. He politely and respectfully apologized beforehand if his views would not be popular but believed the issue to be important enough to have the courage to stand before his elders, the feds and deliver his message of opposition.
If you don’t agree with my son and you believe that federal takeover of our cultural sites and natural resources is “for our own good,” then by all means say so. Please don’t resort to being a bully and intimidating my son. I may be wrong, but from what I understand from a U.S. Army Green Beret special forces Vietnam veteran who has also been to many national parks, thinks about all the soldiers overseas and is blatantly aware of the federal aid given to the islands, that berating, embarrassing, and intimidating children in front of the feds and our own people holds absolutely no honor whatsoever. Your conduct that evening was dishonorable, insulting and completely unbecoming of any who wore that uniform.
If you were upset with his aunt’s testimony and were insulted that she was not there herself, please feel free to communicate your view with her directly. Her name is Angelita Mendiola and she’s married to Diego D. Mendiola, who by the way is the veteran I mentioned above and assisted his father, Thomas Mendiola, care for the Mochong Latte Stone site on their family land and many others here on Rota for decades before you even knew the meaning and importance of cultural sites.
My son was embarrassed, hurt, ashamed, traumatized for having upset you and people like you and reluctant to show his face in school. I had to nurse him all night from the psychological and emotional scar caused by your disrespectful and shameful behavior at the hearing. If that is the result you were hoping for, then you successfully accomplished your mission, soldier! The honorable thing would be to apologize to him in front of the same crowd. I guess time will tell just how much “honor” you, who has been to many national parks, have left in your soul! Tai respetu! Tai mamahlao dimasiao!
To the National Parks Services, I pray that you will in the future better conduct these types of hearings in keeping them orderly, civil and not allow your supporters to intimidate children, like my son, who garnered admirable courage to express their belief in a respectful manner. He only sought to communicate his devotion to his island’s cultural sites but was instead silenced and left unable to finish his message. If you truly were interested in the views of the future generation, you would have led by example and afforded him his right to speak.