Five years after the monument at Hero Street finally was dedicated, the bronze faces of eight American heroes have the power to move people.
“Take the time … look into the faces,” urged U.S. Army Col. Victor Harmon, a speaker at Saturday’s Veterans Day ceremony at Hero Street. “Look into their eyes and try to get a glimpse. We must look at the legacy of strength and service they brought home.”
Among the several dozen people in the patriotic little park at 1st Avenue and 2nd Street in Silvis were Harmon’s children, who shared an umbrella and one end of a bench as they listened to their father speak.
Harmon, the commander of the Distribution Management Center, Army Sustainment Command, Rock Island Arsenal, reminded that the war in Afghanistan is nearing an end, and more American soldiers will be coming home.
“The nation must also rally for its veterans at times of peace,” he said. “We must help them reach their potential.”
Master Chief Miguel Rodriguez, Great Lakes, also was a speaker, and he introduced seven others from the U.S. Naval Training Center who joined him on the three-hour drive to Silvis.
“This is my third time to Hero Street,” Rodriguez said. “Every time I come here, I’m humbled. One thing that can never be said enough are the names of the eight men … representing all veterans, past and present.”
He then read the heroes’ names: Claro Soliz, Frank Sandoval, Joe Sandoval, William Sandoval, Joseph Gomes, Johnny Munos, Peter Masias and Tony Pompa.
“I don’t think you can ever say those names enough,” he said. “You have something very special here in Silvis. We call ourselves brothers in arms, and when we are overseas, we really, really, really have to believe that.”
Ray Hamilton, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam, talked about the “legacy of service,” including the legacy that lives in his own family. But every returning soldier was not treated the same, he reminded.
Some who came home from Vietnam “were castigated, spat upon and mocked,” he said. “At the time, we were living in a divided nation,” and veterans had to “quietly integrate back into society.”
For many, he said, the integration was a success, pointing to FedEx founder Fred Smith and former secretary of state Colin Powell, both Vietnam veterans.
“There is a new appreciation for the modern-day warrior,” he said. “Never will one generation of veterans abandon another.”
The only non-veteran to speak, state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, said the difficulties soldiers encounter when returning home from war are impossible for some to comprehend.
“Civilians such as myself will never understand,” he said. “To all of our veterans, we have a simple message: Thank you.”