Group forms to build Iraq-Afghanistan war monument in Victoria
April 24, 2013 at 4 p.m.
Updated April 24, 2013 at 11:25 p.m.
They stood in harm's way to fight for their nation, spent long months away from those they loved and some even paid the ultimate price.
Now, one group of Crossroads patriots is on a mission to show those efforts weren't in vain.
Plans are in the works to build an Iraq-Afghanistan war monument in Victoria.
The goal is to honor not only regional veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and the global war on terror but also service dogs, the fallen and gold star families, or those who lost loved ones in the war, said Gilbert Ramon, president of the new organization.
The monument will represent all branches of the military.
"We need this," said Ramon, whose 20 years in the Marine Corps included time in Iraq and Afghanistan. "This is personal."
Ramon said he grappled with the idea for years, but the ball really began rolling several months ago, when conversations with friends garnered a willingness to help.
With soldiers returning home and the war fresh on people's minds, now is the time to take on the project, said Bulmaro Martinez, a committee member and veteran.
"I've talked to some Vietnam vets who've said to build it now, while we're young, enthusiastic and still have the heart for it," said Martinez, who also served in the United States Marine Corps. "So many of those guys who fought in Vietnam said they wished they'd done something like this."
Richard Threadgill, area recruiter for the Air Force, said he agreed to join the planning committee before the other members even finished asking.
It would mean a lot to have that validation - physical proof that the community acknowledges those sacrifices - upon returning home from service, he said.
"You don't have anybody who really understands what we went through," the recruiter said, fighting back tears. "But to come back home and have someone show appreciation, that's awesome."
The monument project remains in its initial stages.
Paperwork is underway to gain nonprofit classification, Ramon explained, and the aim now is to form a committee to move forward with planning and fundraising. A new website is also on its way, Martinez said.
The group has not yet found a location, determined budgets or finalized a design, although they plan to incorporate a pair of combat boots, rifle, helmet and dog tags, along with a kneeling serviceman.
Plans might also expand, they said, to include monuments to other wars. Victoria has no Vietnam War monument either.
Martinez encouraged anyone, not just those with military backgrounds, to get involved.
"You just have to be patriotic. Be passionate," he said, adding he predicted plenty of support from the Crossroads community. "This is a patriotic city. Victoria loves its servicemen and women."