NEVER TAKE LIBERTIES FOR GRANTED
by Jorge Maspons
U.S. Army 1969-1972 (Vietnam 1970-1971)
As we approach the 224th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, I reflect on what it means to be living here, in the United States of America. Those of us who came to this great nation from communist dominated countries know very well what it means to loose freedom and to live in fear everyday. You never know when the police will come to take you to the gulags; anyone can accuse you of practically anything, and there is no Bill of Rights to protect you. many times you do not know the identity of the accuser.
I appreciate what we have here in the United States. Many native Americans (I am not speaking only of Indians, but all people born here) take their liberties for granted. They do not think they can loose them because this country is so great, powerfully and mighty. People do not believe it can happen here.
When I am asked to explain what America means to me, I find it difficult because it certainly means many things. As I grew up in my native Cuba, my family always looked at the United States as our symbol of liberty and an example of a true system of law and order. In 1959, Fiderl Castro took over the island nation. Nobody believed, except a few, that he was a communist.
Today, we know what he is and what he has done.
We slowly lost our freedoms. In the name of reforms and for the benefit of the people, the Constitution (patterned after the U.S. Constitution) was abolished and a new order was established. That was communism. Within five years, Castro had taken firm control of all aspects of Cuban life. Of course, freedom of the press was among the first things to go. All weapons were confiscated (Please do protect our Right to keep and bear arms!) and complete control was exercised over the people. No real voice of opposition is allowed in Cuba. Sure, they let CNN and a reporter from time to time, but the real Cuba of today is never seen on our TV sets. What the people see is a well prepared propaganda job.
Then, the government began the process of nationalizing all private businesses and industry. The banks were taken, and in 1962, a new currency was introduced. Many people lost their money as many restrictions were placed on the exchange procedures of the old currency.
My family decided to leave Cuba. The time had come to move to a new place where there was freedom. We did not want to stay in an oppressed society where there are no individual rights. Cuba is, in fact, a country where there is total government, and that is exactly what Communism is, -Complete and total control-
After two years of waiting and trying, we were given the permit to emigrate to the United States via Spain. We arrived in New York City on 19 May 1965. I remember watching the Statue of Liberty from the airplane. Al thought I was a young man, I understood clearly the meaning of this site and I thanked God that we were free, but I the same time I thought of those we left behing.
We did not have an easy time. We were strangers and there was the language barrier. But we were happy. We had to work very hard, there was no "free lunch." We believe in getting ahead by our own efforts. This means that we would not and did not take any government "hand outs."
We worked as much as possible and were proud of achieving a nominal standard of living in a relative short period of time.
Well, the time came for me to serve in the military; I volunteered. I did not wait to be drafted but I did have many adjustment to make since I still did not know the language well (my wife still corrects me sometimes) and I was practically alone in a new world. Al thought I did not expect it, I was called to serve in South Vietnam and got my orders for the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, a combat unit well known in the United States Army. I must confess that in the beginning I was somewhat afraid, but as I look back, I am glad I was there doing "my time" and somehow contributing to the freedom of others. It was a good experience serving in Vietnam for one year and the satisfaction of doing my duty makes me think that I have "paid back a little" to my new country for being here, free. I was naturalized upon my return to the continental United States while serving in the 57th Signal Battalion in Fort Hood, Texas. After completion of my enlistment and staying out for a while, I joined the Reserves for 17 years.
It has been 28 years since that day (becoming a U.S. citizen) and I can find no appropriate words to express what I feel for this great nation of ours; however, I can say sincerely, that I take my citizenship rights and duties very seriously. I encourage all Americans to think about the meaning and value of freedom; something that does not exist in Communist countries. Communism still has a goal, which is to have, one day, control of the entire world. May it never happen.
As another anniversary of the beautiful Declaration of Independence comes closer, it is only proper hat we renew our efforts to protect and respect our Republic and Constitutional rights. I would like to tell all Americans, both native and naturalized: NEVER TAKE YOUR LIBERTIES FOR GRANTED. Instead, get involved to ensure that our Republican form of government will live on.
May 26, 2000