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Mural society starts ground work to honor Korean veterans
Korean War veteran Floren Lopez listens to stories of fellow veterans during Thursdays Manteca Mural Society meeting at the American Legion Hall. The meeting was designed to get input on the design of the societys next mural honoring Korean veterans. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

John Vierra was an X-ray technician at the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital on the 38th parallel.

That was over 60 years ago during the Korean War. A 1948 graduate of Manteca High, Vierra was part of the famed 8055 M.A.S.H. unit.

According to a July 1, 2013 story that appeared in USA Today, his 8055 inspired the highly-acclaimed 1970 film MASH directed by Robert Altman not to mention the long-running television series.

“It was a little bit like that,” said Vierra of the fictional unit known in pop culture. “We did sleep in tents.”

He was among 15 Korean War Veterans who shared their stories to the Manteca Mural Society Thursday at the McCall-Grisham American Legion Post 249.

Vierra was drafted by the US Army in 1951 and entered basic training at Camp Roberts as a rifle man. By July, he was deployed to Japan to medical school and was assigned to the Demilitarized Zone that November.

Charleen Carroll, who is president of the Mural Society, used any and all feedback from the session to establish guidelines on the third installation of the Veterans Memorial Project.

The other murals on the east side of the Manteca Bedquarters at Main Street and Yosemite Avenue are that of the World War II and the War on Terror. Future murals after the Korean War will honor those who served in the Vietnam War and World War I.

“This is the beginning part of the process,” said Carroll, who indicated that it’s important to generate awareness on what’s often referred to as ‘The Forgotten War.’

Each mural is about $25,000 but donations are much in need. “Right now we only have enough to begin the process,” she added.

Beside the MASH unit, local veterans who served in the Army, Air Force and the Marines shared their stories to the mural folks.

Included was the sister of Mantecan Alvin Mendes, who died in that war back in 1951. “He never made it home,” Carroll said.

Mendes was among the more than 7,000 US soldiers still missing in action. The Korean War was the first military action of the Cold War, with California having the most veterans of that war with 430,800.

The next step is for the information gathered here to go to several select muralists to get their depiction of the Korean War. “We’ll have three sketches in which to choose (for the veterans),” said Carroll.

Added Vierra: “I don’t know how they’re going to depict all that in a small space.”

He and others who experienced what initially started as the Korean Conflict are thrilled that ‘their’ war will finally get the proper recognition.

The Manteca Mural Society was founded in 2002 as a non-profit organization consisting of volunteers sharing a passion towards building a better community via public art.

Currently, there are 26 murals throughout the downtown.

Donations and other information can be obtained by logging on to or contacting Carroll at 209.823.1386.