The Mexican American All Wars Memorial stands on Cesar Chavez Avenue in… (Liz O. Baylen, Los Angeles…)
For 65 years, an obelisk-like monument has stood over Boyle Heights on Cesar Chavez Avenue, a tribute to Mexican Americans who gave their lives in war for the United States.
Then, sometime in October, thieves struck, making off with one of the large bronze plaques that had been affixed to the Mexican American All Wars Memorial in 1947. They also took two smaller ones nearby. The likely motive is money: The metal may be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars to an unscrupulous recycler who could bale it with other scrap and ship it overseas.
To many people, however, the plaque is priceless as a historical artifact and a symbol of their community's sacrifice.
On Veterans Day, Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, Tony Zapata of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4696 and L.A. Police Det. Bill Eagleson gathered at the memorial to honor veterans and to ask that the plaque be returned. Huizar has asked the City Council to approve a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the thieves.
"This is sacred and hallowed ground, and for somebody to come and desecrate it, it's a major affront to our veterans and our community," Huizar said in a statement.
More than $7 billion worth of scrap metal was shipped out of California last year, much of it through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Scrap operators are supposed to take reasonable precautions to ensure metal has not been stolen before buying it, but many businesses do not heed this law.
Rick Coca, a spokesman for Huizar, said some community members are hopeful that the plaques may not have been melted or shipped yet and that they can be returned.