An area in East Los Angeles that has been consecrated to the memory of Latino veterans who gave their lives during World War II has been desecrated by vandals last week. Dedicated to the Americans of Mexican descent, the monument was established on May 30, 1947 by a grateful community who saw fit to honor their local heroes. This monument is located where the city limits meet the county line at the intersections of Cesar E. Chavez, Lorena and Indiana streets.
These thieves broke off the bronze marker that proclaimed that the ground was "dedicated as an everlasting tribute to the American sons and daughters of Mexican descent who gave their all in World War II." The Latin American Civic and Cultural Committee further stated that the memory was sacred to the memory of the American soldiers who gave their lives in World War II1941-1945 for the survival of the principles of democracy.
Can you imagine the audacity of these vandals who shamelessly took this plaque with probable intentions of selling it for scrap metal? This vile deed defies comprehension.
I remember attending many a Memorial Day service at this monument because my Dad was a flag-waving patriot and he instilled these values in his children. As a co-founder of the local American Legion Post 804 he took an active role in assisting Julia and Zeferino Ramirez and other members of the Latin American Cultural Committee in the realization of the memorial site. Because of his hard work and dedication to community issues and his having authored "Among the Valiant", a true account of Mexican-American heroes, the park was named in his honor, "Morin Memorial Square" in September of 1967.
All of which brings me to another point.
Some well-meaning but misguided individuals have posted a temporary sign that reads, "All Wars Memorial". in point of fact, the All Wars Memorial is located at 570 South Atlantic Boulevard and none of the existing monuments allude to "All Wars". There should be no confusion of these facts because they are all verifiable at the California Veterans Memorial Registry website. The area is slated for redevelopment and, hopefully, with the construction of the new traffic circle we can replace the markers and reestablish the monument the way it was meant to be.
All residents of East Los Angeles and the Latino community in general should be outraged at the vlolation of the monument. Let's pause to consider some of our heroes:
Guy Gabaldon, a Marine from East Los Angles, captured more than fifteen hundred Japanese and got them to surrender peacefully. All of the enemy soldiers had been indoctrinated to take out Americans even at the cost of their own lives.
David Gonzalez an Army draftee from San Fernando, California saved several of his fellow soldiers under withering fire that ultimately cost him his life.
Alejandro Ruiz from Loving, New Mexico assaulted enemy positions under enemy fire and grenades being tossed his way. His men drew inspiration from the intrepid way in which he advanced and wiped out enemy positions.
Jose Lopez of Brownsville, Texas took out over one hundred enemy soldiers while protecting his men.
Silvestre Herrera of El Paso, Texas exhibited extraordinary courage in knocking out two enemy emplacements and capturing eight enemy soldiers. When President Truman presented him with the Congressional Medal of Honor he did not stand because he was wheelchair bound having lost both feet in combat.
This is only a partial listing, in fact, during the World War II years more Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded to Hispanics than any other ethnicity.
According to Department of Defense figures, more than 450,000 Latinos served during World War II. I have researched the history of the monument and its purpose and I can attest that during those war years the weekly casualties from the Latino community were more commonly than not in double digit numbers.
It truly was an assault against our people when some sleazy thieves tried to impinge the honor of the community and it's an act that should be rectified soon. Our youth need encouragement and should take pride in our heroes and our community.
Eddie Morin is a Vietnam veteran and a writer. He also happens to be the son of Raul Morin, another writer. Eddie is active in Veteran affairs and also Commander of the San Gabriel Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Author's website Email the author