Latino Voices

Latino Veterans Join Forces for Memorial Day Weekend Ceremonies in Chicago


Latino Veterans Join Forces for Memorial Day Weekend Ceremonies in Chicago

Whether laying wreaths, flying American flags or donning red poppies, Chicagoans unite over Memorial Day weekend to honor veterans who served in the U.S. military.

At “Fallen Soldiers Corner” in South Chicago, a Memorial Day ceremony is being held at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. The site features a memorial and mural that honors 12 Mexican American veterans who were parishioners at the adjacent Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, and who were killed in Vietnam.

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“It’s a mix of emotions for all those that have lost someone and for us to go and reunite at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Memorial,” said Gloria Chavez-Gomez, a surviving sister of fallen U.S. Marine Pvt. Antonio G. Chavez. She will be speaking at Sunday’s ceremony. “Their job was to serve, and our job is so that we could remember them, and we will celebrate them and help the younger generation to understand what the war is and what it does and what it can bring for us: freedom. These 12 young men died for our freedom.”

Ald. Peter Chico (10th Ward) grew up in the area and is joining forces with the Southeast Side Vietnam Veterans Organization and the South Deering American Legion Post 1238 to raise funds to help restore the mural.

“Those men were brothers, cousins and friends in the community,” Chico said. “And it’s incumbent upon ourselves to make sure their legacy lives on.”

Vietnam veterans monument and mural in South Chicago. (Provided by Ald. Peter Chico’s office)Vietnam veterans monument and mural in South Chicago. (Provided by Ald. Peter Chico’s office)

In Little Village, American Legion Post 1017 is hosting a ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Monday at Manuel Pérez Jr. Memorial Plaza. Post 1017 was founded in 1946 and named in honor of Pérez, a U.S. Army soldier who was killed in 1945 during World War II at the age of 22, and who became the seventh Mexican American to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

“We’re just trying to keep the legacy alive,” said Manuel Pérez Jr. Post 1017 commander Abundio Zaragoza. “He was a combat hero.”

A U.S. Army veteran, Zaragoza said he’s focused on recruiting the next generation of post members — like Rogelio Villa, a veteran of the Army National Guard who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2008, and who also serves as the second platoon leader at The Mission Continues in Chicago.

“Being out there volunteering, doing work in the community and seeing the members of the Manny Pérez post also out there collaborating, supporting — we started connecting,” Villa said. “We started finding that we had those goals in common of wanting to continue to serve the community. So I said, ‘This is the post that I want to be a part of.’”

The American Legion is a veterans’ organization that dates back to 1919. U.S. Army veteran Marcos Torres said a lack of representation for Latino veterans inspired him in 2019 to charter American Legion Staff Sgt. Jason Vazquez Post 939.

Torres was a friend of Vazquez, who was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2008 while serving in the Army National Guard. Vazquez also worked for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.

“So he was serving in two capacities: He was serving on the local level, and then he was serving on the national level,” Torres said. “When I think of Jason, I think of someone who would have been a leader in the community, someone who would have been sitting here instead of me right now. And that’s why we have to do this work.”


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