November 14, 2008
By Pablo Jaime Sáinz
When filmmaker Ken Burns’s 2007 PBS documentary The War failed to include the voices and testimonies of Mexican-American and Latino veterans, the Latino community raised its voice against being left out.
Burns didn’t take into account the thousands of Mexican-American veterans that fought so bravely for the freedoms we now enjoy in the United States.
But the veterans and soldiers of the Logan Heights area in San Diego have many people that will always be grateful for their contributions and sacrifices.
Last Tuesday, Nov. 11, Veterans’ Day, the Logan Heights Veterans Memorial (LHVM) Committee in partnership with the Chicano Park Steering Committee broke ground during a ceremony where a future memorial will be built in the northeast side of Chicano Park to honor all the veterans and soldiers of the area.
“This memorial when completed will stand as a testament to the courage, valor, and sacrifices made by all,” said LHVM Committee spokesperson and master of ceremonies, John Crespin. “The monument will honor the veterans and soldiers of the very diverse community of Logan Heights and all of San Diego. It will be a place to pay homage, to reflect, and to remember. Our fallen heroes have certainly earned it and the community deserves it.”
The mission of the Logan Heights Veterans Memorial Committee is “to acknowledge and recognize the service and ultimate sacrifice of our brothers and sisters in the Logan Heights community.”
During the ceremony, which was attended by elected officials and hundreds of community members and veterans, speakers highlighted the contributions that Mexican-American veterans and soldiers in general, and those from the Logan Heights area in particular, have made in every American war since World War I.
Crespin said that there’s no set date for completion of the memorial. He said that the LHVM Committee is currently revising design proposals from different artists. He added that funds are being raised through community donations.
Some of the guest veterans that were present at the ceremony included LHVT Committee Chairperson Felipe Pulido and World War II veteran Adam Gastelum.
The groundbreaking ceremony was followed by a reception at the nearby Don Diego VFW Post 7420 on Logan Avenue.
State Assemblymember Mary Salas, who was appointed Chair of the Committee on Veterans Affairs in 2007, said that her father and six uncles all served in the armed forces.
She said that thanks to their military service, her family was able to move ahead and have a better future in the United States through education and housing benefits for veterans.
“The story of my family is not unusual in the Mexican-American community; in fact, it is very common,” she said. “For my family, being part of the military was a way of giving back to the United States for the opportunities we found here.”
And Salas is right: Mexican-Americans have long been recognized as some of the bravest and more courageous soldiers in time of war. While some have criticized the recruiting campaigns that the military has done in Latino communities, the truth is that the armed forces represent a career options for many Latinos.
“As Mexicans, we come from a long line of warriors,” said musician Ramon Chunky San-chez, member of the Chicano Park Steering Committee, which administrates the park. “All the way from Cuauhtémoc and Pancho Villa and Zapata to Cesar Chavez, we carry it in our blood and in our heart. Warriors come in many aspects: Some of us carry rifles, some of us carry books, some of us carry a guitar, but all of these warriors have a lot of hear, mucho corazón.”
City of San Diego District 3 councilmember-elect Todd Gloria, who has been active in the veteran community for nearly a decade, said that he will continue advocating for the rights and benefits of veterans when he becomes council-member.
“I have enjoyed my association with this community of patriots and will continue to make a contribution to the veterans’ community,” said Gloria, whose family has a long history in the military. “I will make sure that they are always represented in city hall. I want to let them know that they will always have a voice.”
For Congressman Bob Filner, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the Logan Heights Veterans Memorial in Chicano Park will be a constant reminder that Mexican-Americans have proudly served the United Stateseven if filmmakers like Burns ignore them.
“This spot (Chicano Park) is sacred ground to many people. To have this veterans’ memorial here says that we will not forget those who fought. Ken Burns forgot some of our heroes. This memorial says we will not forget our hometown heroes,” Filner said.
To learn more about the Logan Heights Veterans Memorial please visit www.lhveteransmemorial.com. There you will find a link to make a donation.