I am writing in response to last week’s editorial entitled “Why the Metro Board Should Honor Joe Gandara”, written by Miriam Adams, niece of Private Joe Gandara, Medal of Honor recipient.

I support Ms. Adams in her endeavor to have one of the Santa Monica Metro Stations dedicated to her uncle. Not only is it a great idea, it’s the right thing to do.

Private Gandara was born and raised on Frank Street (essentially 25th Street) in 1924 -just a couple blocks from where the 26th Street station is being constructed. After attending Santa Monica schools his entire life, including Santa Monica High School, Private Gandara enlisted in the US Army between 1942 and 1943.

Private Gandara was a part of the D-Day operation in June 1944 which, as we know, led to the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany. He was killed in battle on June 9th after voluntarily leaving his post to combat enemy fire.

Last year, we read about how Private Gandara was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor as a result of 2002’s Defense Authorization Act — which investigated veterans who might have been overlooked for the Medal of Honor due to prejudice. Private Gandara, of Mexican descent, was found to be worthy of the Medal of Honor and last March Ms. Adams accepted the award on her uncle’s behalf from President Obama.

A couple month’s ago, we read in the Daily Press how the Parks Commission was recommending that Buffer Park be named for Private Gandara. I — like many in the community — thought it was a wonderful idea and supported it whole-heartedly. However, after speaking with the Gandara family, I have learned that it is their preference that the Metro Station be dedicated in honor of Private Gandara, specifically the 26th Station, which is located just blocks from where Private Gandara grew-up and lived out his entire life before entering the military.

We now have the opportunity to honor the sacrifice that Santa Monica native Private Joe Gandara made by dedicating the 26th Street Metro Station to him.

After conducting research on the matter and speaking to Metro officials personally, I have learned that such dedications have been done in the past with other Metro Stations and that dedicating a Metro station to a deceased individual that the community wants to honor is entirely possible and within Metro policy. The dedication involves a plaque at the Metro station, on which information about the honoree is provided to the public.

Private Gandara’s story deserves to be told — most especially within the very neighborhood in which he lived and breathed — and in the end, gave his life for. The 26th Street/Bergamot Station will be a place where thousands of visitors will pass through every year and the Bergamot Arts Station will be a hub for the arts and a wonderful place for visitors to see. Having said that, let us remember that without the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, we wouldn’t have the arts.

As an artist myself (I’m a classically trained opera singer), I am grateful for our veterans because I recognize that I could never do what I do, if they did not do what they do. Let us honor Private Joe Gandara with the 26th St. Metro Station dedication: he is not just an inspiration to the surrounding Pico Neighborhood through which two of the three Santa Monica Metro Stations will pass, he is an inspiration to all Americans.

David Whatley
Santa Monica

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