He has been hailed as an American hero, but it wasn't until yesterday that Marine Staff Sgt. Riayan Tejeda finally became an American.
During a brief ceremony at the apartment where he grew up in Washington Heights, the 26-year-old Tejeda was made a U.S. citizen - a symbolic gesture that did little to soothe the anguish his parents have endured since he died in Iraq three months ago.
"The pain gets worse with each day that goes by," Rafaela Tejeda, 46, said in Spanish, a tiny American flag pinned to her jacket's lapel. "Nothing and no one will be able to replace my son's presence and his love."
Standing among relatives in a small living room decorated with pictures of their son as a child and in his military uniform, Rafaela and her husband, Julio Cesar, 53, dutifully accepted their son's citizenship certificate.
Tejeda was the first tristate soldier killed in Iraq to receive posthumous citizenship.
"We're honored to be able to recognize the sacrifice of your son and tell you how proud you should be of him," Steve Farquason, acting regional director of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, told the Tejedas, who left the Dominican Republic for New York City while Riayan was still a child.
His mother clutched the framed piece of paper, lowered her head and began to cry.
Tejeda had served for eight years with the Marines' 3rd Battalion, 5th Division, when he was shot dead by Saddam Hussein loyalists April 11 in a mop-up battle that followed the fall of Baghdad.
In all, 26 Hispanic soldiers have died in Iraq, 12 of them noncitizens, according to Pentagon and immigration officials. Of the 1.4 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines on active duty, some 31,000 are noncitizens.
07-18-03, 02:05 PM
They Should make them all citizens before they die they are willing serve and lay down their life for America. you have people that was born in America want do that
I second that , Sgt.....proud of them all.
Wade R. Sanders: Twice a Citizen - Growing Role of Reservists Necessitates Reforms
July 14, 2003
Upon taking office, the president stated that he considered transformation of the military as one of his biggest goals. The war in Iraq, and the spectre of further involvements in the war against terrorism looming, continues to emphasize the importance of that goal. High on that list should be the cornerstone of our military power -- the forces that make up the Reserve and Guard components. In every war, with the exception of Vietnam, these "citizen soldiers" constituted the bulk of our military muscle and today they are vital to the war on terrorism, as are their daily peacetime contributions to military operations.
To date, over 250,000 members of the Guard and Reserve have been mobilized to support the Iraq War, including many from the San Diego region, and are being deployed at home and around the globe. Marine Gen. Lewis "Chesty" Puller said it best. "The only thing we regulars are good for is to keep the guns clean for you reserves -- when war comes, there will never be enough professionals to do the job."
It was the failure of national support for the Vietnam War, linked to the decision not to mobilize the Guard and Reserves, that impelled Gen. Creighton Abrams, fresh from Vietnam and Army chief of staff, to initiate the transformation of the armed forces into their present configuration as an organization that cannot go to war without these valuable members of the Total Force. My comments in this article will relate to the Reserve Components, as the National Guard Components are state assets until federalized.
In the Army, carrying out General Abrams policy meant placing most combat service and combat service support, medical, area/corps support, transportation, quartermaster, maintenance, military police, public affairs and port operations, the prime elements that enable combat, in the reserve components. These functions are being utilized with increasing frequency and duration, often separating reservists from their families and employers for longer and longer periods of time.
This structure, which was anticipated for response to major conflicts, did not envision today's frequent use. Since 1995, over 30,000 reservists have been recalled to serve in Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as other contemporary missions. For Operation Iraqi Freedom alone, over 120,000 reserves have been recalled.
During my tenure in the Navy Secretariat, I witnessed presidential reserve call-ups escalate from rarely to routine. This profligate use of reserves for extended periods of time in conflicts short of sustained war was, and is, dangerously stressing this important asset. Quite simply, the reserves, like the active duty military, are still structured to respond to major conflicts and not the periodic deployments that support peacekeeping and other contemporary missions, and both elements are showing the strain of antiquated funding and personnel policies. These factors, combined with the unwillingness of the president and Congress to adequately address and resolve the problems that frequent mobilization visits upon the families and employers of reservists, make the present situation a recipe for disaster.
The National Command Authority must address this issue and establish an active and reserve force that is prepared to address this nation's contemporary and probable challenges. To date, the periodic congressionally mandated "bottom-up reviews" of the military have been little more than self-serving exercises dedicated to the preservation of the status quo and have provided little innovation.
Civilian and military leaders must be willing to expend the political capital necessary to truly optimize our military structure and base it upon the full spectrum of actual requirements. That means a total force structure that recognizes the importance of reserve integration and provides all necessary support, including enhanced employer incentives, especially for small businesses.
Although change is hard for any organization, the military has an advantage with its clear line of authority. Decades ahead of the civilian society, the military was the first to guarantee an accused's right to counsel and led the nation in racial desegregation.
Force structure change must include an examination of what many regard as the greatest impediment to full total force integration, integration that remains unfulfilled despite the order of every secretary of defense for the past 50 years: the full-time support organization. This Cold War vestige was created by the regular military forces to relieve them of the training, management and accession of their reserves, tasks they are fully capable of performing.
Full-time support is wasteful, expensive and unwieldy, especially in the new war against global terrorism when the accessibility and responsiveness of our reserve forces will be integral to our security. We do not need "middle men and women," especially when the overhead cost of these duplicative personnel and their facilities consumes approximately 80 cents of every dollar appropriated for reserve programs. These are dollars that would be better spent to fund the reserves who actually do the work that the active military needs to function. The full-time support elements of our armed forces must be integrated into, and gradually absorbed, by the regular active duty military forces.
To properly structure our forces, achieve the total force, and preserve our reserve component, requires the commitment and will of the president, the Congress and the secretary of defense. Appropriate utilization and full integration are essential and a fitting tribute to those thousands of Americans who Winston Churchill characterized as "twice a citizen."