Edward Gudgell spent a portion of World War II fighting Japanese soldiers for the Aleutian Island of Attu following the attack on Alaska’s Dutch Harbor.
He spent Monday night being honored for his contribution as a war veteran and a part of “The Greatest Generation” – one of nearly 1,000 Manteca residents that left everything that they knew to put their lives on the line a world away.
“We were about 450 miles away from the Russian border,” Gudgell said. “We saw a lot of combat over there – the Japanese fought hard for that piece of land.”
Monday’s sold-out dinner at the Manteca Senior Center, hosted by American Legion Post 249, was organized as a fundraiser to help cover the cost of a World War II Wall of Honor that will pay tribute to the local veterans that were at one time commemorated on the exposed brick wall on the Bedquarters building that, at the time, was a hardware store.
Post Commander Penny Winston said that she’s proud to see so many people from the community show up for a fundraiser that honors local veterans. She realizes that World War II holds a special place in the heart of many.
“We don’t want any veteran from any war to be forgotten,” she said. “But what sticks out most in the minds of people is World War II because that was the first ever substantial attack on America. There were a lot of lives lost, but a lot of lives were saved there as well.
“There were so many people from Manteca that were a part of that, and this is something that will recognize them for their service.”
The current plan calls for the wall to be constructed and held at the hall until an event comes up where it will be on display for the entire community to see.
With a price tag of roughly $3,000, Winston believes that the organization cleared that Monday night and will be able to use the remainder of those funds to cover any additional costs associated with making the wall mobile. They might possibly donate the leftovers to the Manteca Mural Society for a patriotic veteran’s mural.
For committee member Rocky Wilson – who discovered a photo in the Manteca Historical Museum two years ago of the names on the wall and began the process that led to Monday’s dinner – seeing the support of the community was overwhelming.
“It’s such a relief knowing that people support this – at first we didn’t know how they were going to respond,” he said. “Before we knew it we had to turn people away.
“Two years ago I got started with just a picture – putting the names I could read onto the computer. Now it looks like we’re going to be able to put those names up once again, and it’s a good thing.”