Fallen local heros will get proper tribute

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Two Albuquerque families won a David and Goliath battle and will get the proper tribute for a pair of fallen Marines.

It’s been a long, tough road for the families of Pete Padilla and Manuel Mora. The two Marines were killed while serving in the Vietnam War.

“I take this really, really personal and there was a time when I thought about giving up and we had gone through this so many times and it was never ending, like it was never going to happen,” David Padilla said.

After more than a decade, David Padilla, the brother of Pete found out Tuesday that they will get the tribute they believe the two veterans deserve. A sculpture depicting both fallen Marines in their combat uniforms.

“Finally, we came to a compromise,” Padilla said.

Their fight began after a park named in honor of Padilla and Mora was bulldozed to make room for the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

Their families were promised a new park but what they got was a lot smaller. They were then promised a sculpture. However, the sculpture the families chose was out-voted. A committee in charge of that project chose something more abstract to honor all Vietnam veterans from the Barelas neighborhood.

The battle continued until they decided to find enough money to build both. Tuesday morning, the families of Padilla and Mora found out they did.

“Getting to meet with them and let them know that we were going to have a park and it was going to have both of the sculptures, it was very exciting,” NHCC Executive Director Rebecca Avitia said.

They now have enough money to build their sculpture too and finally bring the heroes from the Barelas community back home.

“Knowing that we never gave up,” Padilla said. “He was a fighter and we kind of followed in his footsteps.”

Desi Baca, Mora’s elementary school principal, has fought alongside the families for years. He said he’s excited to finally see the proper tribute happen.

“I made a promise to myself and to the Barelas that we were going to continue trying our best to honor him ,” Baca said.

Avitia said the plan now is to get both sculptures up by December. There are also plans to add benches and outdoor classroom space around the memorial park.

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