November 10, 2000

4th Annual Veterans Day Celebration
A Tribute to Mexican-American Veterans

On Saturday, November 11, 2000, Latino Advocates For Education, Inc., will host the 4th Annual Veterans Day Celebration, A Tribute to Mexican-American Veterans. It will be held at Santa Ana College, 1530 W. 17th Street, Santa Ana, California from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. This year we will honor our Latino veterans of the Vietnam War in commemoration of the 25th year of the ending of the War.

Our special guests will be Vietnam War veterans Sgt. (Ret.) Reynel Martinez, author of Six Silent Men, the book on the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division's Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRPs); Sgt. Major (Ret.) Ramon Rodri-guez, the recipient of 3 Silver Star decorations in 32 days during the War and USMC Col. (Ret.) Francisco P. Briseño, 23 year veteran judge of the Orange County Superior Court.

Cook Gymnasium will be converted into a military museum as Latino veterans will display their military memorabilia. Linda Martinez Aguirre's 8th grade class will display their 20 foot long mural depicting Latino soldiers in the Vietnam War.

The formal ceremony will be conducted on the stadium field from 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. and will include posting of colors, singing the National Anthem, Boy and Girl Scout troops leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag, patriotic speeches and performances. The Young Marines will perform a flag-folding ceremony. The Aztec Skydiving Team, will parachute into the track and field stadium. Several Orange County ROTC high school cadet units and high school marching bands will also perform.

Food booths will be sponsored by the student clubs of Santa Ana College. No alcohol will be served. Antique military vehicles and classic cars will be displayed in front of the Gym. A full-scale bunker, made of sandbags and timber, will also be on display. The admission is free.

We do not want to minimize the important contributions of other racial or ethnic groups, however, we are immensely proud of our Mexican-American veterans. Moreover, their heroism and patriotism to our country has not been acknowledged by the media or noted in our children's history books.

Latino patriotic contributions can be traced to our country's formative years. For example, Latino Americans fought against the British during the American Revolution. From 1779 to 1781 General Ber-nardo de Galvez of New Orleans led a 7,000 man army, made up of Mexicans, Cubans and other Latinos and defeated the British in key battles along the Mississippi River at Fort Bute, Baton Rouge, Fort Pammure, Mobile and Pensa-cola, Florida. He captured eight British warships and over 5,000 British soldiers. Spain also sent 216 brass cannons, 30,000 rifles and 300,000 boxes of gunpowder to General George Washington.

Indeed, during Texas' revolution in 1836 against Mexico to declare its independence, many Latinos fought for the Lone Star Republic. Of the 189 men who valiantly defended and died in the Alamo, 9 were Tejanos (Mexican born in Texas). Our nation's first Admiral of the Navy, David Farragut, was Latino. In addition, during the Civil War, 2 Latinos were recognized for their valor by being awarded the Medal of Honor, this country's highest and most prestigious military award. Since that date, over 39 Latinos have received the award for their bravery.

During World War II and the Korean War, over 500,000 Latinos served. In the Vietnam War, Latinos represented 20 percent of the combat troops. In April, 1999, 2 of the 3 United States soldiers who were captured in Kosovo and held as prisoners of war were Latinos, Sgt. Andrew Ramirez and Spec. Steven Gonzales. On April 8, 2000, of the 19 U.S. Marines who died tragically in a helicopter crash in Arizona, 10 were Latinos.

For the last four years, our organization has saluted our Latino veterans. In 1997, we honored our World War II and Korean War veterans. In 1998, our special guests included PFC. Guy Gabaldon, the World War II Marine who single handedly captured over 1,000 Japanese soldiers in Saipan; Captain Henry Gonzales, a U.S. Navy Commander of a nuclear submarine, Air Force Sgt. Maria Trinidad Solis Martínez and Col. John Telles, former Marine helicopter pilot of Marine One the Presidential helicopter. Last year we honored USMC Major Gus Loria, NASA Astronaut; US Army Captain Danny Castillo, decorated Green Beret veteran; Air Force Major Maria Dolores Hernández, a World War II nurse who left a $1,000,000.00 endowment to Cal State Fullerton University and a $750,000.00 endowment to St. Jude Hospital of Fullerton and Joe Morris, Sr., World War II Marine Navajo Code Talker.

This year we honor our Vietnam War veterans. During that war one in two Latinos who went to Vietnam served in a combat unit, one in three were wounded in action, and one in five were killed in action. 14 Latinos received our nation's highest and most prestigious military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor, for their bravery in the Vietnam War. The medal is awarded in recognition of conspicuous "gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty." In 1996, the U.S.S. Gonzalez, a guided-missile destroyer, was commissioned in honor of one of those gallant men, Marine Sgt. Alfredo "Freddy" Gonzales of Edin-burg, Texas.

Latinos were also "First in, last to leave" the Vietnam War. For example, on November 22, 1963, Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class Isaac Camacho was captured by the Viet Cong. He escaped 20 months later becoming the first soldier to escape captivity during the Vietnam War. On August 4, 1964, Lt. Everett Alvarez, Jr., was piloting a Navy jet when he was shot down. He was held captive for 8½ years, the longest confirmed POW in the history of the Nation. M. Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez, one of the Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, entered Vietnam in 1965 as part of the "advisory" team of U.S. soldiers. In 1968, he received 37 wounds in a battle saving the lives of his fellow Special Forces team members. In 1975, Master Sgt. Juan J. Valdez was the Noncommissioned Officer in charge of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. He was responsible for the 45 Marines who guarded the embassy. M. Sgt. Valdez was the last man to board the last helicopter to leave the embassy on April 30, 1975, the final day of Vietnam War.

The production of our patriotic tribute is a collaborative effort of Latino Advocates for Education, Inc., Santa Ana College, the Orange County Department of Education, veterans groups, college professors, students and volunteers of the community.

Latino Advocates for Education, Inc. is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization, which was incorporated in 1974 and is dedicated to insuring that Latino students in Orange County achieve academic excellence. Our members include judges, attorneys, accountants, school administrators, college professors, teachers, stockbrokers and business owners.

The humanities goal of the project is to promote patriotism and to recognize the contributions of our Latino military veterans. We do not glorify war or promote militaristic solutions to all of our nation's international affairs, nor do we advocate that all Latino youth join our country's military forces. However we must recognize and inform the public of the patriotic contributions of Latinos to our country and our proud heritage here in the United States.

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