STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
It's Friday, which is when we hear from StoryCorps. And as we head into Memorial Day weekend, we hear about a man who died for the country he loved even though he wasn't a citizen. When the Iraq War started, almost 40,000 members of the military were not citizens. Army Pfc. Diego Rincon was one of them. His family came to the United States from Colombia in 1989, and he was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2003. Rincon's parents came to StoryCorps to remember him.
YOLANDA REYES: We came here when he was 5 years old. And Diego started speaking English faster than we did. He was often letting me know, when I finish high school, I'm going to join the Army.
GEORGE RINCON: Before he went to Iraq, he got the green card. But he said to me, Dad, don't do the citizenship until I return. We'll do it together.
REYES: The last time we spoke, he said, I wrote you a letter. Do not open it if you're not ready. A week later, I got the letter, and it was different from the rest. He was talking about this feeling that he had that he was going to die. He asked for forgiveness for anything wrong that he had done. And he said that he loves me. This letter was like a bucket of icy water.
RINCON: He died March 29.
REYES: I remember I was sitting on the steps, and the chaplain came into the house.
RINCON: He said, Mr. Rincon, I'm sorry, your son is dead.
REYES: I didn't believe what they told us, so I called the Army, and I asked for pictures of his body. I looked at the pictures, and I destroyed them.
RINCON: Sometimes I wake up in the morning thinking that this is a nightmare and he's coming back, but I had my baby for 19 years. And it was a blessing.
REYES: Because of what happened to Diego, there's always that question. What if we hadn't come here? But at least he was doing something with honor, with pride. He was doing something for America.
RINCON: And he got citizenship the day of the funeral. That is something that - it's a piece of paper, but it means a lot for us. He always will be our hero.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
INSKEEP: George Rincon and Yolanda Reyes remembering their son, Diego Rincon, was killed in Iraq in 2003, a death that helped to get a bill passed granting immediate citizenship to immigrant soldiers who die in combat.
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