The Forgotten Heroes Monument in East L.A.

Reminding us to remember our fallen, located in East L.A.'s Atlantic Park

By C.J. Salgado
Published on LatinoLA: May 26, 2014

The Forgotten Heroes Monument in East L.A.

In East L.A. 's Atlantic Park there is a little known and perhaps long forgotten obelisk-shaped monument dedicated on May 30, 1930 with a plaque that reads, "In memory of heroes of all American Wars." I stare at it intensely as a few kids, unconcerned about its special meaning on this day, play around it, enjoying their day off from school on what is for them, otherwise, just another ordinary day. But it's not and it reminds me of something important today...

You see, it's Memorial Day and naturally many will plainly first think of it as the start of summer, especially youngsters eager for fun with the approaching end of the school year. Sadly, that this holiday is a day of heroes is often forgotten in the routines of daily living. Why do we tend to forget so easily?

Really, we owe it to those who've died in the military service of our country to honor their ultimate sacrifice by openly acknowledging their gift of life.

Sure, it's much easier to chit -chat of beach parties and BBQs rather than death and war. But if we don't purposely pass on that legacy of country to our youth, we've failed to value that service and the freedoms that have directly come about as a result.

To those that serve in our military, death can often come with the stark change of a dark moment or swoop in when they least expect it. It can come at the hands of an enemy or with the failure of a piece of machinery. Yet, they heed the calling to duty for country with courage, knowing well that there is a price to be paid for defending America.

Years ago, as a young military man overseas, my first encounter with death happened when three fellow airmen were shot to death while enjoying an outdoor dinner during a pleasant afternoon of leave in a nearby restaurant just outside of the base. Insurgents who hated Americans were to blame, we learned afterward.

Later, on the flight line, those of us who worked the night shift were issued handguns for protection, when those very insurgents began to "jump the fence" in order to steal from or damage our aircraft. As a mechanic, I never imagined a weapon being part of our tool set. But when you are in harm's way, as is often the case when serving in the military, it can literally "come with the territory,"

After that, we could no longer leave the base alone and had a curfew put in place. More importantly and personally, I lost the innocence of thinking that freedom was a given to our way of life. Rather, I learned the hard way that it was, really, a fragile gift, paid for with many payments of wonderful and precious lives.

Therefore, is it that much to ask to put down our beach balls and grill spatulas if only for a few moments of our day to remember their sacrifices? I think not.

So, start, pause, or end your Memorial Day by remembering them and thanking them out loud before your friends, loved ones, and little ones. By sharing our appreciation personally on this day, we make a commitment to conveying their history of honor from generation to generation. Indeed, it is a living memory of those who gave their lives for our way of life, born by our country's true heroes.

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