By Brent E. Beltrán
On Saturday, May 18 military veterans from the community of Logan Heights were finally recognized for the sacrifices they have made throughout the years. Located in Chicano Park, a large stone memorial and flagpole—which initially broke ground on November 11, 2008—was dedicated to the many veterans from the Logan Heights area who have served and died in this country’s armed forces.
Around 300 people were on hand to watch the dedication ceremony near the pedestrian bridge that crosses over the I-5 freeway. Many were veterans, family members, friends and community members. Including almost a dozen veterans from World War II as well as many from the wars in Korea, Viet Nam and more recent ones like Iraq and Afghanistan.
The dedication ceremony, emceed by Logan Heights Veterans Memorial Committee member John Crespin, included a presentation of the flag—which will fly on the Fourth of July, Veterans and Memorial Day— by veterans Adam Gastelum, Tony Milan and Ruben Rivera; a singing of the National Anthem by Julia Price; and a twenty one gun salute and the playing of Taps by the Airborne Honor Guard–National City.
On hand to give speeches were local politicos such as Mayor Bob Filner, who pointed out that many served even though they were discriminated against in the military and at home, District 8 Councilman David Alvarez, Congresswoman Susan Davis, County Supervisor Greg Cox and State Senator Ben Hueso. Also speaking was Mac McLaughlin, President and CEO of the USS Midway Museum. A poem was read by Dr. John Bareno and the memorial monument was blessed by Father Richard Brown of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. Afterwards there was a reception up the street at the Don Diego VFW that was catered for free by Gonzalez Northgate Market.
A program was handed out to all of the attendees. Inside it stated:
“The goal of the Logan Heights Memorial Committee was to provide a special place for our veterans and their families to honor and recognize the important part of history made by members of the diverse Logan Heights community. This project was made possible through the support and collaboration of many organizations and individuals.”
Logan Heights Veterans Memorial Committee spokesman John M. Crespin said:
“It’s been a long process. We’d been dealing with a lot of permits, trying to work with the Chicano Park Steering Committee, the City Parks [and Rec], councilmember Alvarez’s office. And it’s been a long five years that it’s taken us where we’re at. We finally got here. This is a memorial for a very ethnically diversified community. It’s not only for one culture. It’s for the community of Logan Heights. And it’s dedicated to the veteran’s that have served from this community. And it’s going be a monument for veterans in the future, men and women, that they can reflect.”
I had the opportunity to interview a handful of people at the dedication. Here is what they had to say when I asked them: What does this mean to you?
“It means that the faith that they had in this country by being heroes and defending it has got to be followed through by us continuing our faith in our country and make sure we have a society where we have equal access for all.”
— San Diego Mayor Bob Filner
“It’s a great accomplishment. Something that we’ve been waiting for for awhile. It’s going to serve as an opportunity for our young people to learn that men and women from this community have served in the armed forces and that makes us a great American community here in Logan Heights. That’s what this is about.”
— District 8 Councilman David Alvarez
“I was raised in Barrio Logan. I went to Sherman Elementary and Memorial Junior High School. This is very meaningful to me. It’s late but very much appreciated recognition of the contribution of the Chicano, Mexican-American, Latino community in San Diego from almost the start of this town up through the ages and now the latest war in Afghanistan. Hopefully that’ll be over by next year.”
— Nick Aguilar, Veteran
It was a beautiful day. It took us awhile. But we got everything. We’re very honored to be in the park and every year we’re going to have a get together on Memorial Day.”
— Kenneth “Canuto” Martinez, Veteran
“I think most of the veterans here, particularly the World War II and Korean vets, they’d never been recognized by the community in general. That’s what this does. It provides an opening for community members to come and honor the fallen veterans and the live veterans that are still serving. People from Logan Heights were always proud to serve. They may have gotten drafted but they weren’t draft dodgers. They went ahead and took care of business. It shows a determination for serving our country. I think it’s awesome that we have this.”
— Howard Holman, Veteran
This is a long time coming for the veterans of Logan Heights. Many of whom were drafted or chose the military as a way out of poverty. One can say what they will about their feelings on US military involvement around the world. Regardless of that, these veterans and those who have passed away deserve to be honored and recognized. They all served at great sacrifice to themselves and their families. That is the reason for this memorial.