State officials gathered today at the El Soldado (“The Soldier”) Memorial in the State Capitol Park to honor the sacrifices and contributions of Latino American Veterans.
“We are so grateful to the veterans who continue to serve,” said Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), who leads the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. “In celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, it is appropriate to thank and express our gratitude to generations of Latino men and women for their love of country and selfless service.”
To kick off National Hispanic Heritage Month, CalVet held a ceremony to honor the 296,000 Latino American Veterans who honorably defended our country in war and those who serve during times of peace.
Latinos represent the highest number of Medal of Honor recipients per capita of any ethnic group. During World War II, about half a million Latinos served with distinction.
A symbol of the military contributions of Latinos from all branches of the military, El Soldado is the only such monument located on a state capitol grounds in the nation. The existing statue is the centerpiece of a planned expansion, which will recognize Latino military veterans from all wars, including Medal of Honor awardees. The expansion is funded by private donations.
The statue was commissioned in 1948 by the wives and mothers of Mexican-American veterans, and eventually donated to the State of California, with the expectation that it would become an official and permanent state memorial. In 1975, El Soldado was moved to its present location across the street from the Main (West) entrance to the State Capitol.
“These heroes volunteer to risk their lives to protect ours; I cannot think of a higher calling than that. With gratitude in our hearts, we thank our veterans and their families for their service,” Senator Nielsen added.