MONTE VISTA — Ernest Martinez of 7 Mile Plaza completed the final part of a veterans memorial that he has been working on since 2002.
"I started this memorial to honor a specific vet, he was the first vet that left for the service in 7 Mile Plaza where we lived. There was a few of us that went to Vietnam, a total of 11 of us, and we all lived in Plaza at the time. Where I grew up in 7 Mile Plaza, it was a lot smaller than what it is now, the world grows so much, the Plaza was small, so 11 of us going to Vietnam is a big number for such a small village. My cousin Herman Sanchez was the first one to go, and myself and others.”
This was a three-part memorial that was built and the entire memorial is dedicated to his cousin, Martinez said.
“We also have other veterans listed,” Martinez said. “This is really a family thing that we did, and he was listed on top, he was the one we dedicated the memorial to. He passed away about 20 years ago. Since this is family thing, you know, some people get donations or find money to make memorials like this, we really didn't this was just a family project."
Martinez said that 7 Mile Plaza was a close community and after the first part of the memorial was completed, a few years later the second part was added.
"We added what's called the ‘Fallen Soldier,’ the symbol of the combat boots, the M16, and the helmet, we added this on,” Martinez said. “After that, about 10 years later, I started thinking, I kind of felt guilty. I felt like I should have also put some of the World War II veterans on the memorial, too. So, about 3 months ago, I had a stone cut and I put the World War II veterans on it. I also had Vietnam-era vets added in there, too. These veterans were older than us, but we wanted to honor them too for the respect factor. We started out with a very small memorial, but over the years we have finished it and it's gotten a lot bigger."
The memorial which was laid out just over the bridge in 7 Mile Plaza contains three different components. The left side of the memorial is a large stone adobe-colored rock, that has a set of praying hands, along with the names of several veterans.
The veterans are listed as World War II veterans, and Vietnam-era vets, all from 7 Mile Plaza. The middle of the memorial holds an American flag, along with an image of a helicopter, and two soldiers walking in combat.
Directly from the middle stone is the image of the "Fallen Soldier" laid out in steel along with the first stone that was made that contains the name of Herman Sanchez, and other veterans from 7 Mile Plaza. The entire memorial is also surrounded by trees and stone-carved benches that can be sat on while viewing the memorial.
"A lot of people go camping and go to the casino, I wanted to do this, and so did my family, and we did,” Martinez said. “This memorial is here to remind anyone who looks at this memorial that freedom is never free. We were all honorably discharged, but vets go through a lot when they leave home and go to Vietnam, our freedom is not free, many people fight for it, and I hope that anyone who looks at this and sees this, remembers that."
To visit the memorial, drive to 5320 West County Road 5 North, at 7 Mile Plaza.