Remember this name: David Lee Espinoza.

by Joshua Treviño,
from The Homestead: Keeping Texas Texan, The Gilmer Mirror,

Remember this name: David Lee Espinoza. He died for us. I was going to draft for you a report from Midland, Texas, and the small towns in between. I still will, and you’ll get that in the days to come. Today, though, I am compelled to send you something different. You’ll understand why — and why it matters so much. One thing that surprises many visitors to south Texas, and especially the border region, is just how intensely patriotic it is. You get American flags on private property all up and down the communities along the Rio Grande, and the men and women who fly them are largely Mexican-American. It doesn’t stop at the outward display: there is also a long tradition of military service within that community. One of the most moving Texas historical documents is, to me, the First World War diary of Jose de la Luz Saenz. He was a schoolteacher in Cotulla — if you’ve ever driven the lonely expanse from San Antonio to Laredo, you know it, because you’ve probably stopped there.

The south-Texas Mexican-Americans of Jose de la Luz Saenz’s generation lived through an era of real bigotry and prejudice. (Although let it be noted that they were perfectly capable of giving as well as they got: if you don’t believe me, look up the phrase “Plan de San Diego.”) That experience, at its depths, had a transformative effect. Instead of rejecting American values, the community at large embraced them, doubled down on them, and threw forth a class of civic leaders determined to assert rights in an explicitly American context.

There are countless south-Texas families, countless Mexican-American families, who can say the same. One of them is the family of David Lee Espinoza. David Lee Espinoza died on Thursday. He was a mere twenty years old. He was — is — a Marine. The photographs of him circulating in media show a young man with an earnest face. His glasses give him a somewhat bookish look, but he has the wiry physique of a young man who has been forged into shape by the timeless methods and attentions of his Corps. There is one picture in particular that moves me deeply: he is in uniform, and he has his arm about his mother. Her expression is proud. His expression is a faint smile, but his eyes betray real joy.

David Lee Espinoza stands in a long line of heroes, and our task is to deserve him — just as we must deserve Freddy Gonzalez, just as we must deserve Jose de la Luz Saenz, just as we must deserve the heroes of the Alamo, just as we must deserve every Texan who died so that we may live. Texas is imperfect. Texans are imperfect. But I know we’ll do this one thing. We’ll get it right. It’s who we are. But there are those who don’t deserve him. They are the hapless, incompetent leadership who placed him in that fatal moment at the airport gate. We Texans give our sons, and in return, we trust that they will be led with competence, with wisdom, with honor. When that doesn’t happen — when young men die at Kabul’s airport because of a situation created mostly by blundering in Washington, D.C., then a trust is violated, and a faith is broken.

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