25/30: K.I.A. OR THE FORGOTTEN WAR
by Zachary Caballero
For Pedro Caballero, my great-uncle, who served in the Army as a Corporal in the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, and was killed in action on March 9, 1951 in the Korean War.
I want to talk about the flag, but first,
I want to talk about the wall,
about the way a wall
is a curious structure that defines an area
by telling me what is not allowed in.
There is a wall no longer standing
A wall that once stood in Lockhart, Texas
This is the wall of my Childhood
The wall in my grandparent’s living room
that carried the portraits of Mexican Men
in their military service uniforms and
when I speak about this wall, I mean,
these men defined the pride in my family
In Washington D.C., the Korean War Veteran Memorial is a wall
less than 2 miles away from the White House,
the same White House that wants to build a wall between the borders of my blood
History lesson: On March 9, 1951,
My great uncle Pedro Caballero was KIA
in the war with two names:
The Korean War
The Forgotten War
And from what I know,
his remains were recovered
which means his body
was not forgotten
even if the war was
They say dying for your country
is the most American thing you can do
so I ask you,
If a citizen is part of their country,
does that include the blood in the soil?
If a citizen is a part of their country,
and a flag is a symbol of our country,
then every citizen is a symbol.
History lesson: On February 1946,
my great grandfather applied for, and was granted
the suspension of his deportation at the Immigration office in
which means: he did not break the law,
which means, my great grandfather gained a flag, but not his citizenship
which means, he gained a country, then lost his son to that same country’s war, a war nobody remembers.
Did you know the colors of the American flag have a special meaning?
Red is for courage. White is for Truth. Blue is for justice.
I want to talk about the flag
as a symbol
as an object
as a pallbearer
that carried my Uncle Pedro’s killed in action body
back into a country that does not love him.
I want to talk about the flag, and how,
in the 5th grade, I was in the Color Guard,
which means, I guarded the courage, I guarded truth, I guarded justice
Every Friday, I carried the flag like an ode to democracy
I held my head, raised my voice like a flag,
left, left, left right left,
Picture it! A Mexican boy presents the flag
before he pledges himself to America
until he would become the perfect citizen,
or at least,
a part of this country
I am a citizen of this country
but a glimpse at recent American history
will tell you,
citizenship is divisive, but I don’t want to be divided.
This poem is where I cross back into myself,
where I praise the history of my people, my family,
If I stopped writing poems about Mexican people
I’d probably vanish, like a war we forget we lost
like the blood in Pedro’s body,
Red as the republic
For which it stands
One Nation’s wall