Seeing the Face of Christ: Part 2

Two years after my Guatemala trip, I headed south once more, this time to El Salvador (Spanish for, “The Savior”). Leaving Guatemala, I had questioned whether I should leave the Army, but I had nothing about it, and that was bothering me some. I had learned one lesson very well, however: I decided not to risk getting another bug, so I went to a travel clinic and got lots of shots, typhoid pills, and malaria prophylaxis.

I also read as much as I could. I was surprised to discover that very little had been written about El Salvador in the American press (either secular or religious, leftist or right-wing) since 1990. The war ended, protesters found other activities, and new crises diverted our attention to the Middle East, Haiti and Somalia.

And then, El Salvador made the news again. It wasn’t on the front page, and it wasn’t in many papers. On February 10, 1996, President William J. Clinton signed the 1996 Defense Authorization Act. Buried in that piece of legislation was an admission that 5000 American soldiers were in El Salvador in the 1980s, and they were not merely advisers, but were engaged in combat; they were now to be awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. Three months later, on May 6, 1996, a ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery to recognize those American soldiers who had been killed in combat, and whose families had never been told the true circumstances of their deaths.

Why did it take so long for the government to admit the truth? According to retired Brigadier General Joseph Stringham, the Army commander in El Salvador in 1983-84, “It had been determined this was not a combat zone, and they were going to hold the line on that.”1

Others still wait for the truth. On the day the families of American soldiers received medals at Arlington, Ursuline sister Dianna Ortiz announced the end of her five-week vigil across from the White House, aimed at discovering the truth of her abduction in Guatemala in 1989. She claimed an American CIA agent named “Alejandro” was present when she was tortured. She may never know the true story.2

And yet, as I was to discover by talking to the people of El Salvador, “the truth is out there.” They knew all along what the American soldiers were doing in their country. They knew the planes bombing, strafing and napalming their country were American fighters based in Honduras. Why did it take so long for our government to tell us?


June 11, 1996

I have arrived in Santa Ana, El Salvador, after a two-hour drive from the Home of Divine Providence in Santa Tecla, where we spent the night. It is the rainy season, and the country is lush and green and beautiful; it is difficult to imagine the horrors of repression and war. Yet as our bus bounced along the highway, we caught a glimpse of that nightmare when we passed the grim, silent–yet watchful–military base from which soldiers were sent to murder Jesuits in 1989.

I arrived at the airport last evening after a splendid TACA flight from Miami. I had none of the hassles I experienced in Guatemala; I got through customs and the welcoming committee was there with smiles and hugs (thank God!). It was a hot, muggy afternoon, and the sun was setting as our bus slowly climbed up the highway toward San Salvador. We didn’t talk much; the bus was noisy and we were all tired.

My mind was occupied trying to recall the things that happened at this airport many years before. Here, on December 2, 1980, Jean Donovan, a lay missionary, and Ursuline sister Dorothy Kazel met Maryknoll sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, coming in on a TACA flight from Nicaragua, where they had attended a conference of Maryknoll missionaries. We traveled a modern, well-lighted highway, with billboards featuring a plagiarized pink “Eveready” Bunny and Coca-Cola; they traveled a dark, lonely route from the recently opened airport through multiple army checkpoints. Our journey ended safely at an orphanage in Santa Tecla; theirs ended on a side road miles in the opposite direction, raped and murdered, their Toyota van burned. The National Guardsmen who did this went back to the airport to celebrate with a drink. Five were prosecuted, two were convicted, all were granted amnesty after the 1992 Peace Accords and are free today. The Carter administration was outraged for awhile, but Reagan had already been elected, and Alexander Haig and Jean Kirkpatrick were suggesting that the women were communists, had guns, or had tried to run a blockade . . . .

All these things went through my mind as the sun dropped over the volcanoes, and I wondered what sort of country I would see as the sun rose in the morning.

This week we will be staying in Santa Ana at the Madre Cecilia Bermejo Sandoval Home for the Aged and House of Religious Formation, which is run by the Religiosa Franciscanas de la Purísima Concepción de Murcia. Sor Sonia Castro, our hostess, is the coordinator for projects run by my host agency in El Salvador. Of the 52 elderly who live here, 38 are sponsored through the program. Henry, one of our translators, tells us it is more difficult to find sponsors for the elderly; people would rather have a cute child. But the need is great, as the government provides no help.

This is also the order’s formation house, and home to a large group of high school age “aspirants,” whose shy, smiling faces are everywhere. At a welcoming reception, Sor Sonia joined them in singing, “When I say ‘paz y bien,’ I make the world my home,” and “Who does not love the place where he is born?”

June 12, 1996

Today we went first to the town of Ataco, to visit a school. We had a long bus ride up to the mountains, the highway overlooking beautiful deep valleys, with coffee on all sides. High above us, campesinos worked the steep fields. Ataco has a gorgeous square, with a gigantic mango tree shading the entire area. After a brief stop at the convent in the center of town, we went to the school, just outside. All the grades had the day off, and they stood in formation for us. We were treated to a musical program, with singing and dancing. It began with the Salvadoran national anthem, which the youngest kids sang with enthusiasm while the teenage boys cut up or feigned boredom–typical of kids everywhere!

After the singing, the sisters gave us bags of candy to throw to the kids. We spent time talking and playing with them, and visited their classrooms. Luis, another one of our translators, taught us a dance called the “Macarena” (at that time still unknown in the U.S.), which we performed for the kids.

We went back to the convent in Ataco for lunch, and more entertainment. A boy who works for the nuns had his guitar, and led in the singing of “De Colores” and “La Bamba.” His mother gave a dramatic poetry recitation, comparing the windblown sugar fields to rolling waves on the ocean. Henry tried to translate (with all her gestures and mannerisms!), but he quickly gave up, as our laughter sabotaged his concentration. As we ate, the clouds opened, and the first of the daily tropical storms we were to experience poured down upon the open courtyard. Like clockwork, it ended just when we had to leave.

Back in the bus, and on to Chuchualpa, to visit an orphanage for girls. The girls immediately warmed to us, grabbing us by the hands and leading us to the auditorium. My new friend was an adorable 8-year-old in a red polka-dotted dress, named Marisela. Two girls put on a play, a typical domestic scene in which a woman is making tortillas for her baby and husband; she has only enough for four, and has to put up with the complaining of her husband when he comes in from the field. Then a dance, which we will see three times in El Salvador; three girls knelt, patting tortillas on clay griddles, or comales, then danced with the comales on their heads; all to a steady drum beat.

After a snack of fresh, sweet tamales, we played. Marisela and I played basketball, had races, and danced. She taught me how to make a flower petal pop like a cap gun. She and a friend wanted to know all about my family, and in spite of my poor Spanish and their lack of English, we managed to communicate fairly well. When it was time to get back into the bus to return to Santa Ana, the good-byes were long and teary. I took several photos of Marisela, and she made me promise to send her copies.

After supper I spoke with a young Canadian couple, volunteers in Guatemala who came over for the retreat, which is almost like a vacation for them. They brought one of the Mayan workers from their parish, Santiago, to see what he could learn by observing the projects here. Santiago described how his wife makes tortillas while nursing one baby and having another on her back. They live an 8-hour walk from town up a steep mountain, a journey they must make on foot, carrying everything. He does it a couple of times a week, spending the rest of the time visiting the homes of the parish. When his wife goes to town, she must carry the two smallest children down the mountain, while the 5- and 3-year-olds walk. Santiago admitted it is always tough.

June 13, 1996

Today we went through the city of Sonsonate. It was market day, and the streets were jammed with vendors of all sorts of goods, from backpacks to food. One stall had what appeared to be meat, but looked like sun-dried roadkill and was covered with flies. The fruits and vegetables were tempting, however. A woman with a basket full of bags of cashews shouted through the windows of the bus, and we were going slow enough for a couple of people on board to buy from her.

Our destination was Santo Domingo de Guzman. We were to meet the pastor for lunch at the church, but since he was in a neighboring town for a festival and would be late, we first went for a hike. We took the bus through town and up the road as far as we could. At one point, we had to ford a river–it was a concrete ford, but there was a spillway with a drop of three feet on the downstream side, and barely enough room to squeeze through. Above us, a swinging rope bridge was provided for the pedestrians.

The dirt road climbed higher, past thatched houses made of bamboo. The road got steeper, and narrowed. At one point, vertical banks rose four feet on either side. That’s where we got stuck. There was no way to turn around, and the gravel and mud just slipped beneath the wheels. We all got out to push, but to no avail. Indians came out of the woods to watch; others, trying to get home, waited patiently for us to figure a way out of our predicament. Finally, we gave up and walked on, as Carlos, our driver, backed the bus down the hill to a spot he could turn around. We crossed the river a couple more times, through field and jungle, until we came to a high waterfall, its mist hanging in the air and cooling us off.

Fr. Arsenio, the pastor, heard we had arrived and came out to join us at the waterfall. Together we walked back to the parish, where we were greeted with more dances and lunch. Fr. Arsenio had started a small school, which we also visited. The kids looked amused as we tried to sing, “You Are My Sunshine.” Fr. Arsenio told us there are 6000 people in the village, and nine evangelical churches. I had heard only of tension between Catholics and evangelicals in Latin America, but Fr. Arsenio said they have very good relations with one another. Santo Domingo parish provides health and education services for all, Catholic and Protestant, and the evangelical pastors appreciate it.

We walked around town, visiting some of the homes. Many of the people here make pottery, especially the large, flat comales on which tortillas are made. Hammocks swing in every house, and scrawny, flea-bitten dogs are constantly underfoot. We met one woman with three children whose husband died four years ago. One mud-brick wall was covered with photographs of family. In a corner stood tall metal “silos” holding the year’s corn. And wherever there was free floor space, the comales lay drying; when finished, she would ask someone with a truck to help her take them to the market in Sonsonate.

June 15, 1996

Yesterday began with a trip to Cerro Verde National Park, which preserves some of the last bit of tropical forest in the country. On the road to the park we picked up a couple of hikers. He was English, though he looked as if his family had come from India; she was Norwegian. Together they were hiking from the United States to the tip of Argentina.

After a walk along the mist-covered trails of Cerro Verde, we went to the home of a doctor on the shores of Lago de Coatepeque. Coatepeque is a spectacular crater lake, with a smaller cone island at one end, reminiscent of Crater Lake in Oregon, but surrounded by palm trees. This was a chance to see how the other 1% lives–the shore of the lake is dotted with resorts and the weekend “cottages” of San Salvador’s wealthy. It was a lazy afternoon of swimming in the deep blue water of the lake, swinging in hammocks, chatting under the coconut palms.

Today I paid the price, with a touch of the runs. But it was nothing like I had in Guatemala. I didn’t even feel sick. But I spent the day in Santa Ana nonetheless, which gave me a chance to chat with a couple of the English-speaking residents. One was a man who had lived in San Francisco and London for many years, and had returned here in 1982. His family had large sugar cane plantations, which they lost through land reform. He was clearly bitter, but refused to discuss it any more. He couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to come here. He was in San Salvador recently, he said, and remarked that it is getting to be “the Paris of Central America,” with lots of arts, culture, etc.–“a vast improvement,” he said. He thought the only thing around Santa Ana worth seeing was Coatepeque and Cerro Verde, and was happy to know we had gone there.

June 16, 1996

Today we went to Rosario de Mora, south of San Salvador towards the ocean. We visited the Los Omelos cooperative, and nearly the entire community came out to greet us, singing, “My Lord, What a Morning,” and other songs of welcome. These were all people who had been displaced by the war, and came here as refugees. Other countries helped them build houses. They didn’t know each other, since they had come from many different places in the northern and eastern parts of the country, but they shared similar experiences of the horrors of war, and told similar stories of being caught between government forces and guerrillas; still, it took them a long time to get to know and trust one another and to build community.

Graciela was typical. She reminded me of Brecht’s “Mother Courage.” “When we got up in the morning, we just thanked God that we were here another day. When someone died, we thanked God that his suffering was done. Both sides told us to get out of the way or they’d kill us. We’d run away and sleep and eat under the trees. One day when we were running from La Montañeta near Honduras someone told us that some army was coming. I got shot in the arm. My family was captured. My son was shot. All the rest of my family was killed.”

“Since then I’ve been running from every place. We ran with just the clothes we had on. One time, when my son was a baby I said, ‘No, I have nothing to do with it. I’m a woman.’ But soldiers forced us to go. They had a line of women and I saw some friends and they said, ‘Graciela, they’re going to kill us.’ The soldiers cursed at us and kicked us and told us they were going to kill us. I thought they were really going to do it. We were near a tree. A short man who seemed to be the boss came out and asked what they were doing. They said they were going to kill us. The boss said, ‘No, don’t; there are too many people here. Leave them now–we’ll kill them next time.'”

Jose, a catechist since 1950, was from Uluazapa. “Soldiers burned my house and everything I had in it. That’s what happened in all the war areas. We couldn’t even sleep. At night the soldiers would throw rocks from planes so we couldn’t sleep. For three years I was in the mountains of Uluazapa. People said that rebels came from the Catholic Church, so I didn’t come out of hiding since I didn’t want to get killed. I was always working in cooperation with the bishop. We’d baptize groups of 15 or more children.”

“In 1983 I went to San Salvador to ask for an amnesty. From different parts of the country, all of us were under the amnesty, and able to come here. From the capital we were sent to Sonsonate. They told us they’d give us a piece of land, but they were lying–they wanted 136,000 colones for it. A group that helps campesinos got this land for us, and we’ve been here since May 25, 1985. Since then we’ve been living in community, but we don’t have enough resources to work the land. We have problems with health, food, clothing, housing, and planting what we need. In 1994 robbers tried to get me and broke both of my legs.”

Someone asked Jose the reason for the war. “The war came as a result of the sin of the injustice of men going against men. Because the rebels were poor, and so were the soldiers, the higher levels put them against each other to see who was better. Now the war is over. We’re not going to die because we’re not on one side or the other–we’re going to die from hunger.”

Will the fighting begin again? “There’s a chance,” Jose admitted. “I had a meeting on the 24th in San Martinez, and a sergeant in the military said this. The government’s not giving what they promised in the peace accords.”

June 17, 1996

After a few days of hearing little about the war, now we heard story after story of people caught in the worst of it. Today we went to El Paraiso, in the Department of Chalatenango, the hardest hit region, to visit an orphanage where most of the children’s fathers were killed in the war. On a hill just outside of town, with the trees removed to give an unobstructed view of a huge area, there stands a heavily fortified military installation that I dubbed “Fort Apache.” I later learned it was built during the war under the direction of U.S. “green berets;” designed to be impregnable, it was once overrun by the guerrillas, while the green berets hid in the basement.

When we got to the orphanage, the children sang, in English, “You Are My Sunshine.” But there was no sunshine in either the stories they told or in their faces. One 8-year-old girl had a scar down the middle of her face where a soldier struck her with a machete. Another girl saw five siblings die from war and five from starvation; her mother died from war-related “natural causes,” her father was killed in combat. Two of the boys saw how their father was killed by the army; they want to forget it, but can’t. Another pair, whose father was also killed in combat, had watched as their mother put a pistol to her head and blew her brains out.

June 18, 1996

Today we went back to San Salvador. Our first stop was the chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence, which was “consecrated on 16 July 1974 by Monseñor Romero. A second consecration was done by his blood on 24 March 1980.”

Our guide and hostess was Sor Luz Isabel Cuevas of Las Carmelitas Misioneras de Santa Teresa. She founded both this hospital and the orphanage where we stayed the first night and the last two nights in Santa Tecla. She spoke to us of Romero and of the murder she witnessed, “a tragedy deep in our minds and souls that we cannot forget.”

It wasn’t like it has been depicted in any of the movies, she said emphatically. In Oliver Stone’s fanciful Salvador, Romero is killed in the cathedral distributing communion, by a kneeling gunman who spits out the Host and pulls out a pistol and fires repeated shots, after which soldiers open fire on the fleeing worshippers. In the Paulist film starring Raul Julia, Romero, he is shot while consecrating the cup.

Sor Luz Isabel described it this way: “At 6 p.m., after the homily, when he was laying out the corporal, a bullet came from the door and entered his heart. At that moment he fell at Jesus’ feet [indicating the large crucifix behind the altar], his example and guide since he was a child. As he fell, he grabbed the altar cloth and everything on the altar fell on the floor.”

“I was on the right side, second row,” she said, “five meters from the altar. Few people were here, and they were so afraid they fell on the floor. Instead of being afraid, I was filled with indignation. I ran over to the altar to help Monseñor Romero, but it was too late; blood was flowing everywhere from his mouth, ear, and eyes. I turned to the door to see who did this, but I could not see who did.”

For her and the other sisters, the precise timing of his death is very important, and packed with theological significance. It was as if Jesus were saying to Romero, “I don’t want an offering of bread and wine this time–I want you.”

“All his teachings and homilies were supported by the teachings of the Church and the Gospel,” Sr. Luz Isabel emphasized. “As a prophet he was always announcing Jesus’ Gospel while denouncing the injustices of our people. After his homilies, we would ask him if he wasn’t afraid. He would tell us that sometimes he does not feel like preaching like this, but there was a voice inside compelling him to.”

She recalls him saying once, “I know I will be killed, but I’ve already forgiven the ones who will do this, and I will be resurrected in the voice of the Salvadoran people.”

“Our congregation, and the sisters who were living here, thank God for giving us this precious gift, and for letting us spend time with a saint.”

Sr. Luz Isabel then showed us the simple house on the hospital grounds where Romero lived. His books are still there–those left after soldiers carried away those they considered “subversive.” A display case shows the blood-stained clothes he was wearing at the time of his death–on the shirt, the small hole is clearly visible where the explosive bullet entered his heart. A small bed, desk and chair in the bedroom; a hammock suspended from the ceiling in the room where he took his siesta.

Sr. Luz told us of a time when he was getting many threatening phone calls, when one night sounds on the roof woke him up, and he was convinced someone was there to kill him. In the morning, though, he came into breakfast looking rather embarrassed and said, “Here are the guys who were trying to get in”–and he held up two large avocados. He had forgotten about the tree over his roof.

From the hospital we went to the University of Central America, where on November 16, 1989, soldiers of the U.S.-trained Atlacatl Battalion murdered six Jesuit professors, their housekeeper, and her daughter. The campus ministry director, Rodolfo Hernandez, gave us a detailed account of the causes of the war, the violation of human rights by the military, and the people’s growing loss of faith in the FMLN as its leaders became just like the government leaders they opposed.

“The Army and the wealthy must ask for forgiveness from the Salvadoran people,” Hernandez said. “This is the tragedy of our country. No one has asked for forgiveness for the things they have done to our country.” The people who committed the worst crimes were all pardoned by an amnesty which was being planned for even while a “Truth Commission” identified those guilty. “So the people who made the massacres are out there free. It could be the same in Guatemala, Bosnia, Chechnya, and Rwanda.”

“There is peace now,” he said, “but not a peace rooted in justice. Not rooted in truth, because the truth is not known in the country. Not because it’s unknown, but it’s not in the politicians’ interest to tell the people.”

The current ARENA government (the party founded by Roberto D’Aubuisson, who was responsible for Romero’s death) has said that “to have peace we have to forgive and forget–not knowing that people with no historical memory have no identity. How can we forget people who did so much? We can’t forget Monseñor Romero. We can’t forget the screams of children who were raped and abused all those years. We can’t have a future forgetting the past.”

“The real losers of the war were the poor people of the country, who have grown in numbers and in tragedies. They are the ones paying the bills for the twelve years of war. This includes the soldiers and the FMLN fighters, all of whom were recruited from the poor,” Hernandez said.

As Hernandez continued to answer questions, two college students brought in photo albums containing the pictures of the scene on November 16, 1989, of the bodies of the Jesuits who had been killed and then dragged out onto the lawn. Contrary to Hollywood’s infinite number of depictions, bullets do not make neat holes. Never could such scenes be imagined. Never could a make-up artist depict such horrors. It looks cartoonish, in a way, it is so unreal. People speak of having their brains shot out. That is the literal truth. One photo showed a brain, intact, like a laboratory specimen, lying on the grass, yards from the body. That is all I can describe. All I care to remember.

As we left the conference room, still shaking from the pictures, we met Fr. Jon Sobrino, who avoided death that day because he was teaching a class in Thailand. “This is a sacred place,” he said, “More so than Fatima or the Vatican.” Someone mentioned that several of us had read his books. “My books are not important; what you are seeing here is what is important. The books make sense only in light of this.”

We then entered the Martyr’s Room, where the relics of the Jesuit martyrs are on display, along with relics belonging to Fr. Rutilio Grande and to the massacre victims of El Mozote, Rio Sumpul, Rio Gualsinga. Again we saw blood-stained and bullet-riddled clothing. A photo of Romero was in one Jesuit’s room; it was shot in the heart by one of the soldiers as if to assassinate him a second time. A book by Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, fell to the ground and was covered with the blood of Fr. Juan Ramon Moreno when his body was dragged out. That made the most profound theological commentary on all we had seen. In the sufferings of his people, Christ is crucified yet again.

We walked out onto the sunlit lawn where the soldiers dragged the bodies. Now it is a rose garden, planted by the husband of the housekeeper.

The university chapel, formerly known as “Jesus the Savior,” now known as Monseñor Romero Chapel, is their resting place. On the outside walls, on either side of the front door, are two phrases he often used: “If I get killed I will be raised in the Salvadoran people,” and “With these people it is not hard to be a good pastor.”

Inside the chapel, on the back wall, are the stations of the cross. You cannot avoid them as you walk out–seven large charcoal drawings on each side of tortured men and women. Images that burn into your mind.

We visited Romero’s tomb in the cathedral afterwards, almost as an afterthought. Ironically, the tomb of this beloved martyr, known everywhere we visited simply as “Monsenor,” is inaccessible to the people. The present archbishop has deemed it appropriate to begin renovating the cathedral. The new tomb, built for last spring’s visit by Pope John Paul II, is accessibly only to visitors who ask the guard for permission, and stumble through the dark and dusty crypt to where the saints await their resurrection.

I thought of the closing scenes of the movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, in which the ark of the covenant is crated up, labeled “Top Secret,” and hauled off to a military warehouse to be forgotten.

Only Romero will not be forgotten. His tomb may be inaccessible, public demonstrations of devotion may be discouraged, but his spirit lives. “If I die, I will be resurrected in the voice of the Salvadoran people.” And the faith and the hope of the people we saw demonstrates that this is so. Their suffering is not ended, and the criminals in their country and ours walk free. But the people confess their faith in a God who was himself tortured, was raised from the dead, and will “come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”

June 19, 1996

So now I leave, and not as horrified as when I left Guatemala. Then I was sick, and the military was more visible and we all felt less secure. Here, it was almost hard to believe what had happened. Yet we walked where the Jesuits and Romero and so many campesinos were killed. We spoke to witnesses. We met refugees and orphans. We walked the streets of bombed villages. We drove past military bases and saw soldiers. We saw guns and barbed wire everywhere, protecting every bank and gas station, every wealthy home. The facade of peace masks deep problems that could erupt again.

Some images will be forever imprinted in my memory. Horrible, disturbing photos of Romero and the murdered Jesuits. Their bloodstained clothing and shot up personal effects. A skull and bone from El Mozote and ammunition and photos. Disturbed stares. Clinging children, pleading widows.

Now, as I see the Florida Keys come into view below me, it seems so far away. Yet here was the origin of so much of the violence, as attested by the film we watched last night, Anatomy of a Murder, in which two of the Jesuits’ killers confess their acts (they are now free). But what hit closest to home were the scenes of the Atlacatl Battalion training at Ft. Bragg. I feel complicity as a member of the military.

Now I can see the Everglades, and I feel our descent begin. Reflections can wait. I know I’ve already repressed the emotions I felt yesterday. I know they’ll return in time, as I tell others of what I’ve seen. I was overwhelmed yesterday. My eyes were beginning to tear and a lump was in my throat. As I took pictures at UCA and Romero’s tomb, I found myself forgetting to use my flash. I backed into people, not looking where I was walking.

June 20, 1996

On the plane from Miami to Charlotte, I’m reviewing my notes and making sure I can read them. Again the images come to my mind, and again I push them back. I look out the window to avoid them–and Ft. Bragg is below me. I cannot get away.

After my visit to Guatemala I felt the time had come to resign my military commission, but on returning home I got caught up in things and never got around to it (I was no longer drilling). This trip reminded me of that resolution and deepened it. I had joined the Army Reserve in 1986 as a chaplain candidate, and then became a chaplain in the Vermont Army National Guard. I resigned from the Lutheran ministry to enter the Catholic church at the end of 1992 (another story)–that meant I could no longer serve as a chaplain. The Vermont National Guard retained me as a member of the Adjutant General’s Corps–but that meant I now had to train with weapons like any other Soldier. Now, having seen what US power had done in these illegal and dirty wars, I wanted no part of it. Upon my return home I wrote my letter of resignation. My ten years of service had come to an end.


1Jane McHugh, “Service in El Salvador, Bosnia, Rates a Medal,” Army Times, February 12, 1996, p. 4; Jim Tice, “Medal for El Salvador a Go-ahead,” Army Times, April 1, 1996, p. 6; Bradley Graham, “Bestowing Honors Long Withheld,” Washington Post, May 6, 1996, p. A1; Arthur Jones, “Medals Go to Those Who Fought the Non-War in El Salvador,” National Catholic Reporter, May 17, 1996, p. 6.

2Arthur Jones, “Sr. Ortiz Describes Her Assailants,” National Catholic Reporter, May 17, 1996, p. 7.