I am writing on behalf of the governor of Guam, Eddie Baza Calvo, to ask you to consider publishing his recent letter to President Trump.
Guam is a tiny western Pacific U.S. territory, one-third of it occupied by two U.S. military bases, taken as spoils of war in 1898 and 1944. Its indigenous people (the Chamorros) have long struggled for civil rights as well as political self-determination. No one resident on Guam can vote for president or vice president of the U.S., although they are U.S. citizens by birth.
The governor is attempting to draw attention to the injustice of this issue with his initiative “A Veteran, A Vote,” because Guam has the highest military enlistment in the States or territories (one out of every eight adults), while being dead last in veterans funding. We have highly decorated service members, such as former Congressman and Brigadier General Ben Blaz, USMC (Ret.), and Command Sgt. Maj. Martin Manglona, U.S. Army (Ret.).
Our non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, Madeleine Bordallo, is preparing a House resolution on the issue as well.
We believe that at a time when the country is debating the rights of immigrants, this is a good time to remind the conscience of our nation of the rights of our veterans, and the rights of those who are already U.S. citizens.
On a personal note, I was born in Michigan to descendants of Irish and German immigrants and, when I moved to Guam in 2012, I too lost my right to vote. As a longtime admirer of the suffragettes who won women the right to vote, I often wondered if I would have the courage they did. Now I am finding out just how hard it can be to win attention even for a good cause.
Please consider helping our cause for civil rights by publishing the letter below. I am also attaching a copy of the governor’s letter to the White House, some members of Congress, governors of other U.S. territories, and some members of the Cabinet.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Elizabeth (Isa) Bowman, Ph.D.
Ufisian i Maga’lahin Guahan
(Office of the Governor of Guam)
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE NATION
From Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo
My Fellow Americans:
As another Fourth of July passes, in which our nation celebrates our independence from colonial Britain, and as debates over illegal immigrants continue to rend at the fabric of our unity, I ask you to join me in considering the rights of our own U.S. citizens in our island territories.
As the governor of the U.S. territory of Guam, I bring to your attention a matter of great importance to our nation—the plight of the U.S. veteran.
Our island of Guam is an American stronghold in the western Pacific and the “tip of the spear” in safeguarding our national security. Our people are among the most patriotic of Americans:
- One-third of prime land is occupied by U.S. naval and air force bases.
- Guam has the highest per-capita enlistment in the U.S. military.
- One out of every eight Guamanians has served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
- The casualty rate for Guam service members in Iraq and Afghanistan is 450% higher than the national average.
- Four thousand U.S. patriots are buried at the Guam U.S. Veterans Cemetery.
So many of Guam’s veterans laid down their lives, and thousands more fought and bled on foreign shores in the service of America’s noblest ideal—the defense of democracy. Today, sons and daughters of Guam continue that legacy of service. Yet, despite this, not one of these U.S. citizens can participate in the democratic process with a vote for their Commander-in-Chief, the American president.
This tragic irony affects thousands of our American citizens and military veterans living across the U.S. territories: “Equal in war, unequal in peace,” as our late delegate from Guam, Brigadier General Ben Blaz, USMC (Ret.), told Congress. Would we permit this to happen anywhere else—on the streets of Brooklyn, or in the small towns of Illinois—for those who gave their very lives to our nation?
“America, My Irony” is a memorial poem about the Guam U.S. Veterans Cemetery. The Guamanian-American author, Joseph W. Duenas, is the son of a 27-year veteran of the U.S. Army. His message resonates with our veterans, our military families, the U.S. citizens of Guam, and all brothers-and sisters-in-arms across the United States: “And stacked four-high in concrete crypts, the U.S. soldiers lie; no voice or vote for president; democracy denied.”
American veterans residing in Guam and other U.S. territories have served our nation tirelessly for generations now, advocating with force of arms to protect our rights. At a time of heated national debate, when voices are raised high for the rights of non-citizens and immigrants, whose voices are raised for their rights?
My fellow Americans, we have fallen short in advocating for the rights of our most honored citizens—our veterans. It is time to right this wrong. Where there is a veteran, there must be a vote.
EDDIE BAZA CALVO is the governor of Guam and a U.S. citizen who cannot vote for president.
America, My Irony
On this month of Independence & Liberation, we reflect on Guam’s greatest generation. We honor those Guamanians, past and present, who have served the USA.
Watch the Video: “America, My Irony” (2 min):