(Nathaniel Grann/For The Washington Post)

Alícia Fuentes-Gargallo

39, Bethesda, teacher

My grandfather Juan and his brother Jesús used to work the land and care for their family in their home town of Crivillén, Teruel (Spain).

After spending their required military service in northern Africa, Juan was taken by the Republican army in 1936, and his brother was forced to fight for the Nationalists. Juan carried this medal, sewn inside the seam of his jacket, during the Spanish Civil War, hidden from the lack of religious tolerance of the time. Jesús died during the war, and my grandfather was taken to Agde Herault, a concentration camp in France.

In 1993, as I received my driver’s license in Barcelona, my mother handed me the medal to carry in my wallet to keep me safe on the road. The medal made the trip to Nicaragua in 1995 and the United States in 1999 as I moved through different teaching jobs.

The medal’s inscription, in French, implores the Virgin Mary to help people, and it stresses the need of humans in wartime for assistance.

My grandfather died in 2003 in Spain while I was working in Maryland. He left with us his love for the land and an unconditional devotion for his family. While my American family does not hold the same religious beliefs as my grandfather did, I carry the medal daily. It is my small, though strong, antidote against forgetting family history and the roots that hold us together despite circumstances, time or distance.

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