Tuesday, March 10, 2015

La Mesa VFW bench dedication & Plaque Removal and Plaque Build Up: San Diego Sweet and Sour

A day in the life in this blog post is both San Diego sweet and sour.  The "sweet" part the title refers to is a bench dedication ceremony at the La Mesa VFW/American Legion post on March 7, 2015.  The "sour" part about plaque removal and build up has nothing to do with dental hygiene but is about plaques on the Vietnam Memorial Monument at the same location. 
Saturday, March 7 the sun shone brightly on the crowd at the Vietnam War Memorial at the American Legion Hall in La Mesa. The Monahan and Ellis families, related through marriage, were among the viewers awaiting the unveiling of the bench honoring their respective fathers. Veterans of the second World War, the late William P. Monahan, Sr. and Ellis Evers were decade long residents of La Mesa. Dinah and Mike worried about what their fathers might have in common to talk about when the families got together.  Usually men of few words, Bill and Ellis sat in a corner and talked for hours about their experiences in WWII.  This bench is dedicated to their memories.  

                                         Monahan and Evers families at the bench dedication.

Upon arrival, we walked around the Vietnam Memorial that was built in 1970. Reading the plaques, I was amazed that they were still there knowing many plaques were stolen and sold for scrap. Heck, the wiring in the street lights on our block was recently cut and stripped of its metal. I was already worrying about the fate of the bench, hoping it wasn't made of desirable metal. My fears about the bench were unfounded, it is made of ceramic mosaics spelling out the words "Freedom is not Free".

                                        Plaque dedicated to the Heartland Youth who fought in the Vietnam War
                                        The Vietnam Memorial at the American Legion/VFW post in La Mesa
                                        A cross with a helmet and two flags top the memorial

After the speeches and unveiling of the bench, TV news outlets interviewed the families and VFW volunteers. I later saw their reports were about attempts to steal the plaques I was wondering about that day. It turns out that same morning, VFW volunteers noticed the plaques were loosened and took them down for fear of being stolen. They will be reinforced and better security measures put into place when they are re-installed. One news report stated how the monument is right across the street from the La Mesa police department. Attention thieves: the plaques are made of bi-metal and are not valuable scrap. Remember what the bench says: Freedom is not free. Neither are the plaques.

Bill Monahan, Jr. & the author behind the bench

The Monahan siblings with their father's bench

Side view of the bench

Feeling nostalgic, after the ceremony, the Monahan clan decided to have lunch in downtown La Mesa.  The Ellis family stayed at the VFW which serves burgers and hot dogs.  We were going to walk, but the traffic was fast and scary.  There were no crosswalks and we would have to taken our lives in our hands or had to walk out of our way to go around Spring Street.  So we drove three blocks to Tiramisu for some great Italian food. It was heartwarming to hear the siblings reminisce about walking to the former bank building and pointing out where they bought back to school clothes.  May their parents be smiling down upon them proudly.

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