Supporters of Joe Gandara are making up for lost time.
City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to send a letter to the Metro Board requesting that an Expo Light Rail station be dedicated in honor of the World War II hero and Pico Neighborhood resident who was originally passed over for a Medal of Honor because of his Mexican ancestry.
Last year, President Obama righted the wrong, posthumously awarding the medal to Gandara, who died in 1944 in Amferville, France, after charging German machine guns in an effort to save his comrades.
Council hopes that the 26th Street/Bergamot Expo Station will be dedicated in Gandara’s honor.
“We’re not suggesting that they change the name of the station, because it’s already been named,” said Councilmember Ted Winterer, who, along with Mayor Pro Tempore Tony Vazquez, put the item forward, “but, if there’s a way, to dedicate it to him by putting up a plaque so that all those people who get on and off that train will have an opportunity to learn about his service.”
Council’s word is merely a recommendation — the Metro Board will have the final say.
Several members of the public came out to speak in favor of the honor.
Matthew Millen read Gandara’s acts of bravery into the record.
Miriam Theresa Adams, Gandara’s niece, who accepted the medal on Gandara’s behalf last year, choked up when she spoke about the honor.
Last year, the Recreation and Parks Commission recommended that council name the city’s newest park after Gandara. The park, which is currently being called by the place holder Buffer Park, is also being built as a result of the Expo and is also located near Gandara’s childhood home.
Council was set to discuss the naming of that park in February but the item was delayed and has not yet been rescheduled.
Gandara grew up in the Pico Neighborhood and was a private with the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. He was 20 years old when he died.
The reemergence of Gandara’s story kept numerous other Santa Monicans who’ve died in combat from being forgotten on the city’s new Woodlawn Commemorative Wall.
Employees of the Woodlawn Cemetery had been compiling names of fallen Santa Monicans for the wall by researching the deaths of everyone buried during the war. When the Medal of Honor made news, they realized Gandara’s name wasn’t on their list because he was repatriated — or removed from his original burial site and returned home — outside of the dates they’d been searching.
Thanks to Gandara’s belated Medal of Honor, they found about a dozen more names of fallen soldiers who were interred after the war.
The Expo Light Rail is on schedule to open early next year, though many local politicians have wondered if it may open sooner.
Santa Monica’s three stations have already been named after their geographic locations.