The “Spirit of America” World War II mural was dedicated Saturday afternoon before a thrilled crowd of patriotic citizens sitting under four tents at the downtown intersection of Yosemite Avenue and Main Street.
Created by muralist Colleen Mitchell-Veyna, the mural portrays Manteca citizens who served in Great War with allied nations in halting the aggression by Germany and Japan in the early to mid ‘40s. The creation of the mural represented some 400 hours of work by the team on site with the muralist.
Five blue stars serve as the base of the art work and honor the Duran family who had five sons serve in the conflicts. Those stars stand for each of the Duran boys. Mrs. Margarita Duran displayed a blue Star Flag in her home’s front window with five blue stars for each of her son serving his country during WWII.
The Durans were one of only 11 families in the entire Untied States having five sons in the war. All five brothers — Anthony, Manuel, Richard, Alfonso and Ralph — returned home safely. During the war the practice of displaying the Blue Star Flag became much more widespread. Most flags were handmade by mothers across the nation. One of the most famous flags was that of the five Sullivan brothers who all perished aboard the USS Juneau.
A gold star, like the one displayed at the top of the mural, remembers a service member who is killed in action or who dies in service. If several stars are displayed by one family, the gold star takes the honor of being placed on top.
Thirty-five gold stars hung in the front windows throughout Manteca honoring those who gave their lives for the country – replacing the blue stars that had previously been on display at the nearly three dozen homes.
The men and women from Manteca seen in the mural included in the bottom row are from left, Bill Castillo, Army; Leland Elliott, Marines, Marie Huarte Esteves, Navy Wave; John Machado, Navy; Avis Brewster, Army Air Corps nurse; and on the right is Jay Scalf, Coast Guard along with Woodrow Brumley, Merchant Marines. Across the top row are Frank “Bud” Dickman, Army Air Corps and Doris Knodt, civilian factory worker.
In addition to a large American Flag seen almost three dimensional down the center of the mural there are fighter planes, a tank and a Navy destroyer that cause the mural to come alive.
Tom Wilson served as the master of ceremonies for the day.
The keynote speaker was retired U.S. Army Green Beret Special Forces Colonel Bob Elliott who lauded the Manteca crowd for their undying patriotism. Other speakers included Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum, American Legion Post Commander Jim Winston and VFW Post Commander Carlon Perry along with Mike Anderson, Veteran/Military Liaison for Congressman Jeff Denham. Anderson is himself a Gold Star dad who lost his son in combat in Vietnam.
The East Union High School JROTC presented the colors at the opening of the event and Legionnaire Ron Cruz led the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. The National Anthem was sung by James Greer and Invocation was offered by Pastor Mike Dillman.
In closing, “The Spirit of America” was sung by Rich Benavides on his guitar.