Behind the name of anything that honors an individual is a story. Here is the story of a soldier’s sacrifice and a memorial to that life.
Often, that story is told briefly on a dedication plaque. Sometimes, it is up to others to tell a little bit more.
This is about the life of Peter Gallo whose sacrifice on the battlefields of Vietnam is remembered now with the veterans’ center recently named in his honor.
The First Lieutenant Peter Joseph Gallo Veterans Resource Center is located on the Merced College campus.
The Gallo Memorial Foundation worked with the College to provide a gift of eighty-thousand dollars to help remodel the existing Veterans Resource Center and to name it for the soldier who lost his life in the Vietnam War.
A brief story about First Lieutenant Peter Gallo is told on the back of the sign in front of the Resource Center.
It reads in part that he was born in 1946, attended Livingston High School, Merced College, and Cal Poly.
He enlisted in 1966, graduated from Officer Candidate School, and became an armor instructor at Fort Lewis, Washington.
The plaque goes on to read:
“Gallo began his tour of duty in Vietnam on December 9, 1967. On March 30, 1968, at the age of22, and while serving with Troop C, 3rd Squadron,5th U.S. Cavalry, 9th Infantry division, 1st Lt. Peter Joseph Gallo was killed in action during Operation Kilo in Quang Tri Province.”
There’s more information on that bronze plaque.
First Lieutenant Gallo was posthumously awarded a number of medals and honors. He’s buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The plaque does not mention that Peter was the son of Joseph Gallo, founder of Joseph Farms of Livingston in Merced County, one of California’s largest dairy farms.
Joseph passed away in 2007 and his obituary mentions that Peter was killed in action during the Vietnam War.
Fast forward from the 1960s when Peter served in the Army, on through the early part of this century when his father passed, and now to the present time when veterans services are near the top of our awareness.
Merced College was already providing services to students who served in the military. But there was a need to improve the physical location where those services were based.
It was that need to upgrade the facilities, coupled with a desire to honor the sacrifice of Peter Gallo that led the Gallo Foundation to fund the Merced College Veterans Resource Center remodel project.
Thanks to that gift and the vision to enhance the facilities for those who served and those who continue to serve, Merced College veterans now have a special place.
It is a spot where they can relax, get help with problems unique to this category of student, and know that they are not alone in their higher education journey.
Counselors are available.
New friendships with other veterans can be fostered. Dependents have a more visible resource.
The idea behind the remodeled Veterans Resource Center was to give Merced College’s veterans a better place on campus.
Whether they needed someone to talk to or just a quiet space to be alone with their thoughts, the hope was to provide a little bit of everything.
Vice President of Student Services Michael McCandless says the Center is now a meeting place as well as a resource center.
“We wanted a space that veterans could use inside and outside,” he says. “(The Center is) an anchor to attract them to a place where they have the resources to be successful.”
More than one-hundred fifty veterans and their families are served through the Center.
In addition to meeting space and counselors, other services include a lending library, computers, and printing services.
“The faculty and staff of the Center work hard to function as liaisons between student veterans and the campus community,”
Michael McCandless says.
“They serve as advocates, spearhead fundraising opportunities, and work with student veterans in regard to access to educational and community resources.”
Some of the student veterans are on active reserve. That status frequently requires modifications in the way instruction is delivered. Center staff often needs to intervene with instructors to help accommodate the student schedule.
“This is a pro-active group,”
Michael McCandless says.
”The Center has allowed the faculty and staff to interact closely with students and best learn how to serve and encourage success.”
That success is measured in many ways, from improvements in academic behaviors as well as in enhancement of support systems for these veterans.
Thanks to the website Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund ( http://www.vvmf.org) , visitors can learn even more about Peter Gallo and others from that era who lost their lives in the war.
Peter was born on January 29, 1946 and was killed in action on March 30, 1968.
His war record, including honors received and the battles he fought are listed on the page dedicated to him.
Beyond these facts, the website has a feature where people who knew a soldier as well as those who may not have known the soldier but wish to express their feelings can do so.
Some of the testimonials help fill in a few more details about the kind of soldier First Lieutenant Gallo was.
John Mandrano of Greensboro, North Carolina was so moved by Peter’s service, he posted on the website:
“My heart aches by their loss of life and the loss by their friends and family. I'm deeply saddened. I will try to honor them by living a good and helpful life to others. Thank you for the posting by Peter's classmate about how they have not forgotten him. We are now connected by them....from the West Coast to the East Coast.... We are Americans. “
In another post, Vernon Cole recalled his high school classmate.
“Peter, it's been 45 years and your high school classmates still talk fondly of you... You will never be forgotten. “
The First Lieutenant Peter Joseph Gallo Veterans Resource Center was completed in the early summer.
A dedication was held in August.
Peter Gallo served his country, gave his life, and left many memories among family and friends. His name is now linked forever with a Resource Center that helps other veterans, active military, and their families.
It is a legacy that makes all of us proud.
Steve Newvine lives in Merced.
His new book, California Back Roads- People and places among the palms and pines of Central California will be published in December