Above: After a six-month renovation, Veterans’ Memorial Park reopened in Coachella, Calif. on Sunday, November 6, 2016. (Image: Amanda Flores/Coachella Unincorporated)
By Amanda Flores
Military aircrafts from wars past flew across Veterans’ Memorial Park in Coachella marking the start of the dedication ceremony for the newly renovated space. Flags surrounded the park honoring Coachella residents who served in the U.S. Armed Forces as hundreds of families sat gathered to hear city officials and honored guests speak from the park’s new amphitheater.
“Our job as community members is to pay homage to those who have sacrificed themselves and those that have given their lives so that we never forget the cost of freedom,” Mayor Steven Hernandez said. “Freedom is not free, it is fought for.”
The park was first inaugurated in 1906 and was later named Vietnam Memorial Park. However, in 2003 the city decided to change the name of the park to Veterans Memorial Park to honor all veterans. As the park began to deteriorate, the city sought to renovate certain areas to make it more inviting to the community.
The project, which took six months to complete, cost $4.2 million. City council members, the Veterans Committee, and city engineers, including Jonathan Hoy, were some of the key contributors to the park’s renovation. The newly renovated park consists of three main areas: the amphitheater, a picnic area, and a date palm and rose garden.
Local veterans were among the hundreds in attendance during the ceremony. Santos P. Castillo, 69, is a resident of Coachella who served as a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force from 1967-1971, including tours in Vietnam. “The park was in desperate need of the renovation for many years. It will offer visitors a place to reflect on the contributions of our local heroes,” said Castillo, who was honored at the event.
The park features a “Hero Walk” where inscriptions from famous veterans and officials are displayed. In addition, the names of local veterans are engraved on granite tiles. Also, a Supreme Sacrifice Monument honors those who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Another local veteran, Alonzo Solis Jimenez, 70, served as a specialist in the U.S. Army from 1967-1968, also during the Vietnam War. “It’s about time we get some close to home recognition. When we came home from Vietnam, there were no parades or no celebrations, we were just ignored. But now, I feel truly honored to be recognized and part of this new Hero Walk.”
Residents felt it was important to renovate the park so that they can gather to remember the active service members and veterans in the community.
Other parts of the city are expected to undergo renovations in the near future, including the library and local buildings. The city’s goal is to bring new life into downtown Coachella so that residents can enjoy the community they call home.
About the author:
Amanda Flores, 15, is a lifelong Coachella resident. She joined Coachella Unincorporated earlier this year and has already written several articles on community health and farmworker services. After high school, Amanda said she wants to study law or medicine. View Amanda‘s author page here.