Veterans honored with mural in San Francisco

August 15, 2012 5:14:11 PM PDT
A somber milestone was marked in San Francisco Wednesday. The organizer of a mural project has finished painting the names of the more than 4,800 Americans who died in Iraq. It's just a part of an effort to honor all of the nation's veterans in a unique way and place.

Once known as crack alley, a place of drugs and prostitutes, now the stretch of Shannon St. between Geary and O'Farrell in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood is being transformed into Vet's Alley. Murals on the wall honor soldiers from America's wars, and they're all painted by veterans.

"This project has provided healing for a lot of vets to be able to come out, tell their stories, put their stories on the wall, learn to do without their stories, and move on with their lives," veteran Amos Gregory said.

Gregory, a veteran from the Persian Gulf War, started the project 10 months ago.

Maria Medina Serafin served during the Vietnam War, processing troops at the Oakland Army base. Her mural pays tribute to Puerto Rican soldiers who fought for America, "Most of them, even the survivors came back, have never been the same again."

The murals cover several buildings, but there's plenty of space left. Louis Haras, owner of the Olympic Flame Caf?, was the first to give permission for the art to go on his walls, "I've been here 32 years and I know the area better than anyone. They did a good job."

The San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce is providing financial support for the project. The organization's president, Fred Jordan, is a Vietnam vet, "We want to make this is a success, and we want to acknowledge the veterans who have paid so dearly for our country."

Michael Blecker with the group Swords to Plowshares adds, "It's important to share this kind of stuff so it's not just written in academic books. It's vivid history."

And the project organizer says it's important who's telling the story, "When you look at the art of war that's done today, it's usually not done by a veteran," Gregory said. "So what we have here is an opportunity from those who have actually experienced it."


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