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A tribute to the fallen at the new transit station & expanding library
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Why are we free?

The answer isn’t because of 237-year-old pieces of paper at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. Those words are meaningless unless they are secured.

The real reasons we are free are the 850,000 men and women who have fallen in combat to assure that there are meaning to those words.

We should never forget the fallen - no matter how many years ago — who gave their lives so we could live ours as free men.

It is why serious thought should be given to move the plaques displayed of the area’s fallen from outside the Center Street entrance to the library to the base of the 40-foot flag pole that is part of the new downtown transit station nearing completion. At the same time, plaques noting additional fallen since they were dedicated should be added.

The library was an appropriate site when it was chosen. It is a community focal point. The fallen helped preserve the freedoms we have to read and write the written word without censorship.

And while the plaza has great meaning for a few people who are well aware of its existence and the immense price paid by the 37 men whose names are listed there, it is essentially off the beaten track. Queries of six patrons this past Saturday at the library indicated they weren’t even aware there was a memorial outside the library. The design and placement is extremely low key to the point that many Manteca residents have no inkling that it exists.

Part of that has to do with most of the traffic in and out of the library comes from the other side of the building.

The ultimate location of the plaques listing the fallen arguably should be at the proposed veterans memorial park and building envisioned where the tennis courts are on Center Street directly across from the library.

The veterans’ park isn’t something that will happen any time soon or may not get off the ground. If it does, however, the plaques could be relocated there.

Until then, serious thought should be given to transferring the plaques to a memorial adjoining the transit station flag pole.

It is in a much more high profile location. It flows seamlessly in with the Flags Over Manteca effort that takes place seven times a year featuring the placement of 2,400 flags on major streets. And it is in front of a building designed not just as a downtown focal point but a community gathering place as well.

What better way to honor the fallen than to include their remembrance as part of a marquee Manteca focal point as well as at a place where people will enjoy the freedoms secured by sacrifice and blood? The library also has those last two elements but the location of the monument plaza is such that it garners little day-to-day attention.

The move would also open up an avenue to expand the Manteca Library by building on the plaza out to the northern edge of the McFall Room wall along Center Street.

Done right, it would give the library — last expanded in 1978 with a floor plan designed to serve a community of 32,000 — additional space for a modernization and expansion. Although not ideal, it could be a solid interim solution that would serve the community for years.

And when the time comes that a new library complex is built, the library facility could be converted to a community center so no investment in facilities would be wasted.

Oftentimes you need to take immediate steps toward your goal to get what you need or want and to garner necessary support.

That’s true with the library as well as a fitting tribute to the fallen and all veterans.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209-249-3519.