Family of fallen Marines stage rally demanding justice

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The families of a pair of local Marines who lost their lives in Vietnam are now demanding action when it comes to honoring their sacrifice. Earlier this year, an On Special Assignment story showed viewers two families who have been waiting for this memorial for a long time.

In 2000, the six-acre park dedicated to Sgt. Pete Padilla and PFC Manual Mora was razed, zoned commercial and later replaced with the National Hispanic Cultural Center. There’s now a park to honor the two, but family and friends say current plans for a monument to the Marines isn’t going to cut it.

It’s been a history of broken promises.

“We’re going through phase one, this and this. This is going to happen. We’re going to build this, we’re going to do that. Nothing. Nothing ever happens.”

That’s how Beatrice Mora Martinez describes her family’s experience dealing with the National Hispanic Cultural Center. On Saturday, she and a group of supporters aimed to change that, staging a rally there.

“We’ve been waiting a very long time for this and I think they should be honored. They gave so much and sacrificed so much,” explains Mora Martinez.

At the forefront of the protest was the sculpture of Padilla and Mora the family had hoped they’d see in the park meant to honor their loved ones. Instead, the center voted in a different piece. While two family members had a say in the decision, they say it wasn’t enough.

“I think it should be up to us because we’re the ones that sacrificed,” says Mora Martinez.

Community leaders like Art De La Cruz stand with the family.

“It is not what they asked for. It is not what the legislature approved and this board is standing on ruling process and ignoring the community,” says Bernalillo County Commissioner De La Cruz.

The National Hispanic Cultural Society says they’re listening.

“We will be working together hand in hand to make sure that we find a solution for the community,” says National Hispanic Cultural Center Executive Director Rebecca Avitia.

They say they’ve committed to meeting with the family every week until they reach a resolution. Family members like Mora Martinez say they’re optimistic.

Supporters are calling on action from Gov. Susana Martinez. Family and friends say they’re now raising their own money for the sculpture they want. Representatives with the National Hispanic Cultural Center say the selected sculpture will feature two plaques with the images of Padilla and Mora.

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