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'Voiceless community': Denying Guam right to vote slights veterans

By
Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo
The Department of Defense has stated that Guam plays an integral role in the defense strategy for our nation and our allies. File Photo by Justin A. Fisher/U.S. Marine Corps
The Department of Defense has stated that Guam plays an integral role in the defense strategy for our nation and our allies. File Photo by Justin A. Fisher/U.S. Marine Corps | License Photo

HAGATNA, Guam, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- We mourn with our nation in the loss of John McCain, senator and war hero. Please remember his compatriots on the field of battle, our American veterans, including those living in Guam and other U.S. territories.

As a territory of the United States, the people of Guam are considered U.S. citizens, but they do not have the right to vote for president. Additionally, our delegate to Congress has no vote. We are a voiceless community.

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And yet, Guam has a higher U.S. military enlistment rate per capita than anywhere else in the nation and casualty rates 450 percent times higher in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have proven our loyalty to the United States and its tenets of democracy and equality time and time again.

Army Staff Sgt. Martin A. Manglona (Ret.) served in Vietnam, like the beloved senator, receiving the Distinguished Service Cross and two Purple Hearts, among other honors, for his "extraordinary heroism."

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We have, within our island community, local people who lived through war atrocities under the Japanese occupation in World War II. They recall the forced labor and beatings that preceded the liberation of the island by U.S. military service members. For our traditional villages, like any small town in the heartland, the American flag and patriotism are core to our community.

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Further, the Department of Defense has stated that Guam plays an integral role in the defense strategy for our nation and our allies.

Troops from Guam stood guard when the people of Iraq participated in their first free election of their nation's leader. What did they think, I wonder, as they watched citizens proudly show off purple thumbs even as they, protectors of democracy, cannot vote for their own commander-in-chief?

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I asked my little grandson: Is this right? Does it show respect for a veteran's service? We try to teach our children that all men are created equal. Is our country living out such a belief?

I ask this now of my fellow elected leaders and my fellow Americans.

It is time for all veterans, regardless of where they live, to receive the respect they have earned.

Bullets on the battlefield do not discriminate. Side by side in the trenches, our fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters cover each other's backs -- it doesn't matter whether the place they call home is on Main Street, U.S.A., or Marine Corps Drive, Guam. Yet, when they go home after fighting to protect equality and democracy, those who live on Main Street will have a voice and vote for their commander in chief, while the soldier from Guam is denied that right.

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Our former U.S. congressman, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Ben Blaz (Ret.) referred to this slight to our people as being "equal in war, unequal in peace."

Please join us as we fight for our veterans' right to vote for president. Write your congressional representative. Awaken the media. Let us push for their right to vote, documented in American law, purchased by American blood.

Eddie Baza Calvo has served as governor of Guam since 2011.

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