A FAR AWAY LAND
My name is PVT Roberto “Beto” Manuel Olivares Rodriguez I am a
Mexican national fighting for Kuwait City as a United States Marine
part of “Operation Desert Storm” My Uncle Luis told me if I joined
the Marines I would automatically qualify for U.S. Citizenship.
My story begins in the small farming town of Tres Rios Zacatecas, which
I will explain later for now I belong to 1st infantry division, it was
mid February cold overcast and raining at night we were wearing our gas
masks in case of chemical attack while the M1A1 tanks were engaging the
Iraqi T-55, T-62, and their top line T-72 tanks, way before the Iraqi
Forces had a chance to see them.
My English was passable but no worry their was always a translator, and
of course there was Jared and Matt two white boys who befriended me,
they would teach me English and I would teach them Spanish. But Matt and
Jared wanted to learn to cuss in Spanish, I did not have to tell them
that in the heat of battle there is a lot of cussing in any language.
We were able to seize AL JABR airfield, when another battle began at the
Kuwait International Airport, by days end we along with Arab Forces had
decimated Iraqs 3rd Armored Division, liberated the Kuwait Airport, we
took control of all access routes to Kuwait City; Arab Troops along with
U.S. Special Forces led us into the City.
During all these engagements all I could think about was home my mother
Adelita , my dead father”Chencho”,. Colonel Abel , if it wasn’t
for Col.Abel I would have never come to the U.S. in the first place,
those thoughts carried me through every battle we engaged in, brave
soldiers dying for their country and honor, wondering if I died on the
battlefield if America would even notice my patriotism honor and
service? would there be any yellow ribbons waiting for me a Mexican
national fighting for freedom of the United States of America.?
My freedom, I felt was a personal one, I was fighting for the right to
gain entry and live freely in America, willing to die bravely like “a
United States Marine”. When I informed my mother I joined the Marines
for the chance to become a U.S. citizen she was very happy, but
cautioned me “cuidate mijo resare que me regreses completo a mi” me
escribes mijo todo lo que puedas” she said “Take care my son I will
pray you return to me whole, write to me as often as you can”.
To this day thru two tours, many firefights not a scratch or so I
thought, Matt and Jared would not let me breathe for a minute, they
saved my life more than once, and vice-versa, they would not let me help
them sweep a building, a street, a room for insurgents they would tell
me to stand guard outside a building, for example I did not understand;
wanting to prove my bravery and courage, they told me those were the
parameters of my service as a soldier even though I drilled the same way
they did technically I was not allowed. “fuck you”!!yelling at
them and participating in the building sweeps anyway, needless to say I
won their respect.
My english is a little better still thick with a heavy accent, at times
laughable. There were some words and phrases I still could not pronounce
to save my life. Like for example “Orders” I would pronounce it
“Odors”, Jared would tell me not Odors Pendejo!! ORDERS!!!, if the
Gunney says “we must follow orders” its not “we must follow
ODORS!!! Ha ha ha Jared and Matt would just break out laughing.For me
the Marine experience was a very valuable one, I did not realize how
valuable until my trip back home I am 19 years old today!! me and the
guys are going to celebrate I was able to get my hands on some Russian
vodka the closest to tequila i could find, but man do I miss home!!!
The customs and traditions are so different I feel like a fish out of
water, I was not going to learn the arabic language, God knows I was
having a hard time just learning english, much less arabic, so on
patrols I would just let Jared or Matt talk to the locals, I would just
watch their back, keep people from rushing us or attempting to talk to
us, that also meant women and children, which the Alquada and the
Taliban at times used as suicide bombers.
If I was a burden to my unit because of the language barrier or lack of
battle experience my unit never told me so, sure any time their was a
rookie recruit in our ranks we worried, will he hold up? Keep up? Will
he cower under fire? Understanding that very real fact could get you or
a whole unit killed, so yes damn right I wanted to prove to my unit I
was not a coward, that I can be an asset to my unit and contribute my
part in a firefight. That was my greatest challenge I faced everyday,
more than just trying to stay alive, but prove to these “Yankees”
this Mexicano can fight!!!
Why the fuck would you want to become a jarhead Beto? asked Jared , as
they were celebrating in the mess tent, “how the fuck can you talk
with all that food in your mouth Jared,?” ,” your fucking spitting
food all over us you asshole”said Matt. “Okay let Beto answer your
question but you gotta stop eating please, fuck!!! Your gonna drown us
!!! Matt kept at Jared.
“Well Jared it’s like this when I immigrated to Houston, I worked
for my uncle luis’s friend in his restraunt, I was able to get my
greencard. When I turned 18 years old my uncle Luis told me if I joined
the Marines I could automatically qualify for citizenship” Beto said.
So tell me now why the fuck did you join? Beto asked Jared “I’m
from new Orleans, my number one problem is women I lovvvveee women!! I
got involved with someones wife, well that someone turned out to be very
important in the community, and that’s as far as I will go to explain
to you two losers!! Jared laughing as he said it. Jared was it seemed an
extremely good looking young man, he could have been an actor in the
movies if he wanted to, he would go to explain to us that wherever he
went women would proposition him all the time, “fuck even married
women would come up to me and give me their digits so I made my money
doing tricks, yea I was a man whore and proud of it!!Jared told us, we
thought he looked like Elvis, in fact around the base some us would make
fun of Jared and call him Elvis. He would just say “fuck off”!!!
“so I figured I better get the fuck out of New Orleans before I end up
as gator meat so here I am with you losers!!!
Did I make the right choice?? Ha ha ha jared laughing, but later he told
us of him living with his grandmother, the hardships, and how he was the
only grandson that would even help his grandmother, his aunts and uncles
were not interested in taking care of their own mother, even though they
lived in a two story Victorian, his grandmother was cared for at home by
a senior services care that provided a nurse, while Jared was finishing
One night he spoke to his grandmother of joining the military and she
gave him her blessing, we never asked him about his Mother or father,
brothers and sisters I guess because we did not want to know each other
all that well, But LCP Jared “Pinky” Pinkerton III was my friend and
“Well I’m off to clean my rifle with Ms.Bridgitte” Jared said,
“Ms.Lt. Bridgette”? Matt asked with a grin and waving his hands
depicting a curvy woman, “That’s the one she’s been harassing me
and I’m going to talk to her to pleeeaasse stop! don’t wait up boys,
well catch you later this huckle berry’s got to go to work for all
Mankind” “Happy Birthday Beto” Jared said as he left the mess
tent, they had almost finished the vodka, and there was still some
birthday cookies left over, it still was not lights out yet, as they
were still sitting at the table.
Was it hard to leave your home in Mexico Beto? Matt asked “sure Matt
when you see people crossing into the U.S illegally or otherwise it is
not because we are desperate to leave our families, in fact in my
journey thru the desert some died and we had to continue. I was looking
for more opportunities to work for a higher wage and send money to my
mother in Tres Rios, we just want to eat like everybody else, if it was
the other way around would you not cross into Mexico to seek opportunity
for your loved ones Matt? I asked in return.
“Yea I guess I would Beto, but what about your Dad? Matt asked…kind
of like looking for a chance to tell Beto something that’s on his
mind. “What about my dad”? Beto asked “ well where is he in
this”? Matt asks almost indignantly. “ my father was killed in a
card game he won, but the loser decided otherwise and back shot my
father on his way home one evening, my father’s killer is a large
landowner a former Army colonel, his name is Col.Abelardo Gomez de
Santilque and upon turning sixteen he tried to have me killed just in
case I wanted to avenge my fathers murder, my mother told me that I must
leave TresRios because when she lost my father she was heartbroken, if
she would lose me too that would be a travesty!!!
So at sixteen I began my journey to the U.S. that is my reason for being
here, but I am not here to take up taxpayer money, or to be a burden to
the U.S., like all my Mexican people we come to the U.S, to work!! When
have you seen in the U.S. a Mexican illegal panhandling for money Matt?
Never !!! I said “because we come here for work, and in my case I will
be damned if I end up in a mass grave somewhere with other good people
who are never seen or heard from again “ Beto said.
“Wow this Col has a real fancy handle ha ha! I didnt know things were
like that, I always thought Mexicans would come here illegally because
they wanted our jobs”? Matt said “We come here because there is
greater human rights and advantage, we feel a chance to progress into
someone greater, we can start a business that will thrive, feed provide
for our families, attend college, or are we not human also Matt?” Beto
“What if you don’t make it out of here in one piece or alive
Beto”? Matt asks “ well then I guess that will be God’s call?
Right? Beto asked “ but if i get my U.S. citizenship at least I did
not die for nothing” Beto said.
"You Matt what’s your story why did you join up”? Beto asked.
“well Beto I’m from a small town in Nebraska, when I turned fifteen
my parents divorced I went to live with my father my older sister and
younger brother went to live with my mother in California, so I rebelled
and got into trouble a lot with the law, racing my mustang, getting
drunk, public nuisance, this went on for a few years, and finally after
the second time he got me out of jail, my dad had a heart to heart talk
with me, he told me if I got arrested again he was not going to bail my
ass out, that he was not one of those parents that like he said “hock
their properties,or blow their whole lifesavings on a lawyer just to
keep me out of jail”” so I needed to decide what to do, so the next
morning early without telling my dad I went to the recruiters office and
signed up so here I am” Matt said beaming like it was the best
decision he had ever made.
“So are you going to kill the sombitch who killed your dad” Matt
asked feeling a little buzz from the Vodka “ there is an easy answer
“Yes” and then there is the hard one I don’t know Matt we will see
what happens, shit in fact someone else might beat me to it, I am not
the only one “Col Abel” has lots of enemies, like I said before
there have been people in past years, good people too that have worked
for Col Abel on his Hacienda and just disappeared never to be seen or
heard from again.” Beto said.
“ Well maybe he’s a coyote and helped move people to the U.S.”
Matt said, “ like I said these people that disappeared were never
heard from again, Beto said “ well then I guess this Col has it
comin” Matt said sadly,. “ he’s probably not any different than
this sombitch Saddam Hussein, he killed his own people using chemical
weapons, wiped out whole towns, women and children too” Matt said
disgustingly, if he were standing right here now I would shoot him right
between the eyes!! Matt said with an air of Marine bravado.
“Hey Beto its almost lights out we better git, patrols in a few
hours” Matt said “ hey Beto Happy Birthday Compadreee!!” are you
drunk Beto don’t tell me your drunk you lightweight!!! Ha ha ha
laughing as they left the mess tent back to their bunks.
Overhead all night long bombing of the enemy forces trying to leave
Kuwait was in progress, by morning when Beto ,Jared, Matt along with 1st
infantry, and coalition forces rolled into Kuwait City it was devastated
with the smell of death in the air all around.
As comfortable as that may sound most of the time it was not, sometimes
we only got to sleep two hours, or short naps while walking, sitting, or
taking a crap, the lack of sleep makes for a mean fuckin Marine, we all
felt on edge all the time, sometimes we just wanted to hit somebody.
The days were very hot and nights very cold, in winter mostly raining,
and sand fine like talcum powder everywhere, it was not like the sand
in Arizona, this sand would get in your shoes, underwear, in your balls
make you itch, annoying. After awhile you get used to the sand, we chose
to ignore it on our off time at base camp we would play “sand
football” we would even play for money against another unit, gambling
was not allowed, but then again a lot of things weren’t like porn
magazines alcohol, ,Music!!!
God knows we wanted our music, Jared liked country and rock, Matt liked
country,the black soldiers liked rap, hip hop, R&B, God forbid I could
listen to my music!! I liked to listen to “Norteno music” like “
los Rieleros del norte” “Conjunto Primavera”, Aniceto Molina, and
a few others.Matt would yell at me sometimes “turn that shit off
Beto”!! come over here and listen to some real music ,and he would be
listening to some singer named “Johnny Cash”?
Despite the restrictions to these harmless activities, we kept them
under the radar, their was an invisible line we did not cross, we were
careful. Iraq was never home for any of us so we needed our
entertainment for sanity purposes to somehow feel normal.
Excerpted from "Dreams of Our Fathers" by TH Hollimon. Copyright © 2013 by TH Hollimon. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.