Memorial Day is a very special day in Military City USA. This American holiday is observed on the last Monday of May and honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. This year many of our local Vietnam veterans have the opportunity to honor our fallen military soldiers twice.
Over the past weekend members of the Fox Tech Vietnam Memorial Committee unveiled a beautiful black granite monument in front of Fox Tech High School facing Main Avenue. On Memorial Day, May 27 family and friends of Fox Tech Vietnam veterans are expected to return to the memorial for a second remembrance.
The monument is a first for the school, and hundreds gathered on May 18 to recognize our twenty-three Fox Tech classmates who gave their lives for their country in the Vietnam War.
The May 18th gathering was one of the most solemn 0occasions of this century old school. Young men and women who attended Main Avenue, San Antonio Tech, and Fox Tech, as our school has been known since its founding in the 1880s, fought in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and numerous Middle East wars. With this monument, we recognize the brave young soldiers who fought and lost their lives in Vietnam.
An American clergyman, Minot Savage, wrote that “The brave never die, though they sleep in dust: Their courage nerves a thousand living men.” In their sacrifice the warriors that we honor this Memorial Day gave the living soldiers greater courage and greater caution. They gave us a greater appreciation for those who fought for their country but were never fully thanked or properly welcomed back. We are forever indebted to our 23 Tech classmates who gave their lives for this country.
The Fox Tech Memorial Monument honors these twenty-three heroes, our classmates, who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the U.S. military. They served in uniform during one of America’s most difficult military conflicts.
What makes this Memorial Monument special is that just ten years ago we knew little about our classmates who lost their lives in the Vietnam War. Yes, their names were engraved on a beautiful black granite wall in Washington, DC, but they were nearly forgotten in their own home town.
Ten years ago I learned that the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund was seeking the photos of all the 58,000 men and women who were killed in action or missing in action during the Vietnam War for the period 1955-1975. I wanted to do my part for my high school. I volunteered to create a Faces With Names project for our Tech classmates. After recruiting several Tech alumni who served in Vietnam during that period, we determined that we would research the fallen heroes for all of Bexar County, and for every single high school. Our initial team included Manuel Marquez, JR Garza and Charlie Calderon. The team recruited US Army Ret. Maj.
General Alfred Valenzuela, Rosalinda Trevino Berlanga, Bea Zepeda and Sylvia Orta Spradlin. We appointed our talented computer whiz, Charlie Calderon, as Chief Researcher.
With the help of Tech classmates in San Antonio and a dedicated friend from Washington DC, our team which we named Faces With Names, was able to locate the photos of every single person, 362 from Bexar County, who lost his or her life in Vietnam.
Over the next eight years we reached out to every school, every Vietnam group and Veteran’s post, and every friend we knew who served in that war. We learned,
sadly, that many schools in our Military City USA had no information about the Vietnam casualties from their district. Some schools had the names of the fallen heroes, but not the photos.
After eight years of research, Charlie Calderon was able to locate the last of the 362 photos that we had set out to find. The last photo that we needed was that of Pvt. Elvin Price who had attended Wheatley High School, a segregated school that had been shut down in the 1980s. For the most part, his school records did not exist.
We were almost ready to give up and acknowledge that we had found 99% of the names and photos when a chance conversation that Charlie had with a total stranger while shopping at Walmart provided that last photo of Pvt. Price.
Charlie was buying picture frames for an upcoming Fox Tech ceremony when good fortune struck. As he made his purchase, Charlie conversed with a fellow customer about the project. The customer said he knew of a soldier from Wheatley who had died in Vietnam. Charlie nearly fainted when he learned it was Pvt. Elvin Price, the very soldier for whom we had searched for eight years!
With the Faces With Names projected completed, we had, for the first time, the names and photos of our Tech 23, along with the names and photos of every soldier who died in Vietnam from all of Bexar County.
In early 2016, Ralph Morales, a 1962 Fox Tech alumni who had served 13 months in Vietnam with the 3rd Marine Division, proposed the monument idea to the SAISD to honor the fallen heroes from Fox Tech.With the support of Fox Tech principal, Jennifer Benavides, the school board granted permission and allowed the SAISD Educational Foundation to receive funds for the monument.
Morales also recruited a dozen Vietnam veterans for this project. Fortunately for us, he found Richard Lopez Garza, a Tech alum who served as a Second Lieutenant Field Artillery Forward Observer with Company B, 196th Light Infantry Brigade. Garza, a San Antonio Attorney, earned a Bronze Star and received a Purple Heart for injuries sustained due to a land mine explosion. Garza worked with the Fox Tech monument committee with dedication and passion. And it was Garza who first envisioned a black granite monument that could be placed in front of the entrance of Fox Tech on Main Avenue.
I cannot say enough about the dedication of the two Tech Vietnam committees to ensure that this beautiful and meaningful monument would be a reality. I also wish to thank Garza for uncovering the great President Kennedy quote that we placed on the monument. It reads: “ A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.” John F. Kennedy.
Tom Rogan, the CEO of Rogan Industries and a Vietnam veteran, mentioned to Garza and Morales that the Fox Tech black granite memorial would be the only one of its kind in the nation other than the black granite Vietnam Wall in the nation’s capital. Morales, a retired civil engineer, made enormous contributions to the placement of the monument by making sure that the 15 feet concrete and steel pillars needed under the monument were properly in place.
A few weeks ago on a beautiful Good Friday, we officially delivered the Fox Tech monument to the site on Main Ave. My good friend, Bobby Corbo, a Jefferson graduate and also a Vietnam veteran, assisted us greatly with transporting and placing the monument in its proper destination.
Ralph Morales, who led the effort and devoted 40 months to the monument planning, welcomed the Fox Tech Vietnam War Fallen Heroes Memorial Committee to the official placement of the memorial.
It should be noted that hundreds of San Antonians donated to the Fox Tech memorial wall. As it shines in the sun next to us, it is also a memorial to all Vietnam Veterans in San Antonio and beyond. This monument also serves as an inspiration to continue to love and fight for this country, one nation indivisible, in war and in peace, in small ways and through sacrifices, all of which have made the world a better place for everyone.