Signs Along Veterans Boulevard Call Out 80 Military Killed in Action
Chances are family members of US Army Private Cornelius W. Tuyn are no longer in our community.
The same can be likely said for US Army Mechanic John R. Veary.
Both lived in Merced. Both lost their lives in World War I.
Thanks to the City of Merced, both are being remembered.
Chronologically, they are the first veterans to be honored in the City of Merced’s Memorial Plaque initiative.
*By Veterans Day on November 11, eighty signs will be lining a broad section of M Street in the City of Merced.
Among the men whose names appear on the signs is US Navy Corporal Robert M. Crowell who lost his life in World War II.
He was born in the same month that Private Tuyn was killed during World War I: October 1918. Crowell who served in the US Navy, died on July 2, 1944.
The signs are memorials to members of the armed services killed in action who were from the City of Merced. The memorials cover service members from World War I on up to the war in Afghanistan.
The signs have white lettering over a blue background. Individually, they recognize a soldier, his rank, branch of service, and years served.
Collectively, they make a very strong statement as to how our community shows respect to those who gave their lives defending our country.
“They are all from the City of Merced and all members who died in combat zones,” says Mike Conway, the City of Merced Information Officer.
Army Private Tuyn and Mechanic Veary are the only two Merced residents known to be killed in action during World War I.
Thirty-seven of the eighty soldiers memorialized on the signs served in World War II. The signs include the names of thirteen soldiers killed in the Korean War, twenty-one from the Vietnam War, and four from Operation Iraqi Freedom through the war in Afghanistan.
Among the Korean veterans is US Air Force Captain Ralph A. Ellis, Junior. Captain Ellis died on July 21, 1950.
The memorial to fallen veterans was a natural next step in the City of Merced’s journey to pay tribute for the contributions of all who have served in the military.
In recent years, Merced City Council renamed the bridge on M Street spanning Bear Creek to Veterans Memorial Bridge.
A section of M Street near the bridge now carries the name Veterans Boulevard.
In the most recent stage of renovation for the bridge, five flag poles were installed representing each of the five branches of the Armed Forces.
Flags from those branches of the military will now be flown on the bridge during special occasions and at other times to honor veterans.
The City’s Department of Public Works has been posting the new signs along M Street.
Of the twenty-one soldiers listed among the veterans who died in action in Vietnam, five were Marines.
That list includes Lance Corporal Juan B. Valtierra who was killed on January 5, 1966.
It’s an ambitious undertaking, and it will be an ongoing task to find, verify, and post memorials to other City of Merced veterans who may not be on the current list.
“We don’t believe it is a complete list,”Mike Conway says.“We are seeking the public’s help in making it complete.”
The city staff has started this project with the names of 80 military personnel from the City who have died while serving during combat.
One complication is limited records on World War I Veterans.
That is why Assistant City Manager Stephanie Dietz says her team needs help from the community.
“If your loved one was a City resident who died in battle and is not on this list, please let us know.”
The current list of the eighty City residents being memorialized is posted at www.cityofmerced.org/veterans.
The most recent death memorialized on the signs is US Army Private First Class Luca C. Hopper. Private Hopper died on October 30, 2009.
More names will be added as City staff, working with local veterans groups, verifies other City of Merced residents who were killed in action.
More names may be added if there are more deaths of City residents serving in the current war in Afghanistan. The names I chose to use in the column represent four branches of the armed services: Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines.
I selected one from each war America has fought since World War I, and I included two for World War I as there were only two in that category. Hopefully, when we see these signs we remember not only the soldier whose name appears, but all the men and women throughout the country who made the sacrifice.
Soldiers like Army Private Tuyn and Mechanic John R. Veary are remembered today, more than one-hundred years after they were killed in action thanks to this effort by the City of Merced.