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‘Willing to do the hard work’

Juan Garcia shakes hands with City Councilor Ken Sanchez, left, after Mayor Richard Berry hung up a portrait of Garcia along with those of 38 other veterans on the Los Volcanes Senior Center’s Wall of Honor on Thursday. “This means a lot. It’s an individual honor,” said Teresa Garcia, Juan’s wife. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Ten members of the Los Volcanes Senior Center who served in the U.S. military had their photographs added to the senior center’s Veterans Wall of Honor on Thursday.

The veterans served in different branches of the military from the Korean War in the 1950s through Desert Shield and Desert Storm of the 1990s. Some performed their service in the United States and some were on the front lines of the various conflicts.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry hangs a framed picture of one of the members of the Los Volcanes Senior Center on the center’s Veterans Wall of Honor on Thursday. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Under Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry and the Department of Senior Affairs, “Veteran Walls” have been created at each of the city’s six senior centers and two multigenerational centers. Thus far, nearly 200 veterans in total have been honored.

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Speaking before the veterans, their families and members of the community, Berry thanked the veterans for the service and their sacrifices.

“Somebody had to go out there and fight for freedom, somebody had to stand up and say ‘I’m willing to fight for this country, for what it stands for, freedom here and freedom around the world’ – and that was you.”

Berry told those assembled that in 10 or 20 years from now, visitors at these centers will look at the wall, and although never having met the veterans photographed, they will be inspired and know “somebody was willing to do the hard work.” The wall, he added, “is about continuing your legacy as veterans.”

Jorga Armijo-Brasher, director of the Department of Senior Affairs, told the veterans that they “set the example for our youth.”

“Today we honor you in this special way, and in the future your picture will be here to make sure we never forget the courage and the sacrifice you made. And to your families, I thank you because you, as well, made sacrifices while your loved one was serving your country.”

Ila Ann Castillo served from 1962-1965 and was stationed at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. There, she processed discharge papers “in the days before women could serve on ships or in combat,” she said. “I had graduated high school and I had to do something, and I liked the Navy.’

A native of northern California, she went off to boot camp in Maryland. “I was so homesick, but then they gave me three choices of where I could serve, so I went to San Francisco.”

Air Force veteran Janet Dominguez fueled jets and drove a tanker truck at a base in Arizona during the Desert Shield and Desert Storm era. “I just wanted to be around jets,” she said. “I wanted to work on the flight line. Before I entered the Air Force I worked as a nurses aide. When I went into the military I said, ‘I want to be outside.'”

Army veteran Pedro Romero, served as a combat engineer in Vietnam from 1967-1969. Romero said he was pleased that his service is being acknowledged on the Veterans Wall at Los Volcanes – a stark contrast to the tone of the greeting he received stateside upon completion of his military service.

“When I came back, Vietnam veterans were not treated very well at all,” he said of public reaction to the war and the returning veterans. “I had no doubts about why I was there. I had a job to do, I’m proud I did it and I don’t have any regrets.”

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