Scottsbluff Class of 1963 plans monument to honor area’s Mexican American soldiers

From left, Scottsbluff Class of 1963 graduates and Vietnam veterans Ben Trevino, Marty Ramirez and Joe Perez are working toward placing a memorial at the Guadalupe Center to honor members of the Latino community who have served in the military.

The community is invited to attend a monument unveiling at the Guadalupe Center following the Veteran’s Day parade in Scottsbluff on Monday, Nov. 11. A memorial to the Chicano/Mexican-American Military Service Veterans will be unveiled and dedicated at the Guadalupe Center.

“The ceremony is another part of the long-overdue recognition of Chicano and Mexican American veterans from the North Platte Valley, who served in the military,” Marty Ramirez, of Lincoln, said. Ramirez is a retired University of Nebraska psychologist, who was part of the Scottsbluff High School Class of 1963 who served in the Vietnam War.

The program for the unveiling ceremony will begin with a welcome and introduction with Scottsbluff Mayor Raymond Gonzales. Rev. Mike McDonald from Gering will present the invocation as the Gering Troop 17 Color Guard presents the colors. Alicia Dominguez will sing the national anthem before those in attendance head outside for the monument unveiling. Following the unveiling, there will be a reception at the Guadalupe Center.

Ramirez, who has been one of the veterans involved in the project, said the monument started as an idea. As a 1963 Scottsbluff High School graduate, he connect with several classmates, who also served in Vietnam.

“The irony was we never got together growing up,” he said.

To pay tribute to their service and the men who lost their lives, the group thought about a monument. Ramirez began formulating a plan.

“I told myself if we’re going to do anything, we’re going to do it for all Mexicans in the North Platte Valley,” Ramirez said.

Greg Rodriguez, Benito Salazar, Joe Perez, Gavino Saldivar, Benny Trevino and Ramirez approached Father John Sorenson at the center about the idea.

“Sure, I know where to put it,” Sorenson said.

The six formed a committee that included local residents Connie Ernest and Laura Munoz to create the memorial at the Guadalupe Center to recognize Chicano/Mexican-American soldiers. Ramirez said 60% of the Chicano/Mexican Americans in the Class of 1963 were drafted and sent to serve in the Vietnam war.

On the monument, there is an inscription and a figure of the Lady of Guadalupe and a description of the monument. On the backside, there are names of soldiers who served in World War II, the Korean War and Afghanistan and were killed in action. At the bottom of the monument are the people who organized the monument. In front of the bench, there will be a 3-foot bench for the community to use as they need during their visits to the monument. The gathering of veteran’s names — Ramirez believes there could be between 500 and 1,000 — is ongoing and they will be installed on the monument as soon as possible.

“America celebrates Veterans Day,” Ramirez said. “We’re very proud, but nobody has had a vehicle to share their story. What a monument does is show the pride we’ve had in our family. The symbolism goes beyond the military.”

It took a year for the project to get to this stage and Ramirez said they are still fundraising for the $15,000 project.

“We’re close to raising that,” he said. “We need about $3,000 more to reach our goal.”

Monday’s ceremony is stage four of six in the project as landscaping around the monument and future plans need completed.

lauren.brant@starherald.com

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Lauren Brant is a reporter with the Star-Herald and the Gering Courier. Contact her at 308-632-9043 or by email at lauren.brant@starherald.com.

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