Remembering Vets With Monuments and Jobs

November 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

In 1938 the U.S. Congress made November 11 a national holiday to honor veterans who fought in World War I. Formerly known as Armistice Day, veterans service organizations urged Congress to expand the honor to all veterans by replacing the word “armistice” with “veterans,” which they did in 1954.

In the 79 years since, the country has continued to honor men and women who have served in the military. It’s a tradition being played out again this week in neighborhoods and cities all across Los Angeles County.

At parades and carnivals, job fairs and somber memorials, people will celebrate the bravery and the sacrifice made by U.S. veterans as a community, including in Northeast Los Angeles where a World War II Medal of Honor recipient will have a memorial monument dedicated in his honor on a local high school campus.

For some veterans, the day is a time to reflect on their own service.

“The Marines made me the man I am today,” said Pedro Barajas, who grew up in the northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Cypress Park and graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in Highland Park in 1986.

Now 50-years-old, Barajas told EGP that for him Veterans Day is a time to proudly remember his fours years as a Marine and the “brothers” with whom he served.

“Coming home, I had the resources and support to transition back to civilian life,” said Barajas, who served in the Marines from 1988 to 1992.

But not everyone had the same support, he said, telling EGP stories of veterans who struggled to find jobs and to overcome financial hardships.

A monument to recognize World War II Medal of Honor recipient Sadao S. Munemori will be placed on the campus of his alma mater, Lincoln High School in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Lincoln Heights. (Smithsonian archive photo)

A monument to recognize World War II Medal of Honor recipient Sadao S. Munemori will be placed on the campus of his alma mater, Lincoln High School in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Lincoln Heights. (Smithsonian archive photo)

Recognizing veterans for their service is an important cause for Vera Padilla, treasurer of the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council. She recalls meeting Vietnam veterans who felt they had received little support or recognition from their neighbors. Padilla told EGP that in 2011 she organized a meeting of local groups to discuss how they could honor veterans who live in Lincoln Heights. It was a very personal cause for her, said Padilla, whose brother and sister served in the U.S Marines and Navy respectively.

The groups decided to recognize the service of local vets with a plaque at Lincoln High School, said Padilla, who graduated from Lincoln in 1964. “The majority of the veterans are from the community,” Padilla points out. “We felt the high school was the best place to honor them.”

The plaque is prominently displayed in front of the school auditorium.

Today, the neighborhood council and community will honor Lincoln High Class of 1940 graduate Sadao S. Munemori who was killed in action in Seravezza, Italy in 1945 during WWII

The son of Japanese immigrants, Army Private First Class Munemori was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest and most prestigious personal military decoration that is only awarded to members of the military who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor.

Munemori is credited with diving on a grenade that was “rolling toward his helpless comrades.” He “smothered its blast with his body,” saving “the lives of two of his men at the cost of his own life,” according to the record of his commendation.

“A monument is a way to properly honor him and instill pride and inspiration in students at Lincoln,” says Padilla.

On Wednesday, the current plight of veterans was acknowledged with the opening of a new job training and placement center not far from where thousands of veterans live on the streets in downtown Los Angeles.

Los Angeles County opened a new job training and placement center for veterans Wednesday at Bob Hope Patriotic Hall in downtown Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Office of Sup. Hilda Solis)

Los Angeles County opened a new job training and placement center for veterans Wednesday at Bob Hope Patriotic Hall in downtown Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Office of Sup. Hilda Solis)

Located in the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall, the Los Angeles County Veterans America’s Job Center (Veterans AJCC) provides employment and training services tailored to meet the needs of veterans and their families.

First District Supervisor Hilda Solis told EGP via email that the opening is in keeping with the County’s growing emphasis on workforce development for priority populations, like veterans.

There is nothing more important than ensuring that veterans are able to access the resources they need to transition their experience, interests, and skills to civilian life, Solis said.

“This is the County’s way of giving back to our Veterans, who have sacrificed so much for us.”

The dedication of the Sadao S. Munemori Memorial is open to the public and will take place from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Lincoln High School: 3510 N. Broadway, Los Angeles 90031.

 

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