Vandals Hit Mexican-American Soldier Memorial

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SACRAMENTO --

Mexican-American veterans are outraged about the vandalism of an iconic memorial to their war effort that took place on July 9.

That's when the front end of a granite rifle was found on the ground, apparently whacked off by vandals.

"To desecrate this is to dishonor the memory of those who...we gave blood for the flag," said an emotional Phil Rios.

A $1,000 reward has been put up by the California State Law Enforcement Association to identify the vandals. They had to climb 10 feet up on the statue and hit the rifle twice, once on each side to break the tip of the gun off.

Many of the vets at a news conference said they believed it was a hate crime, given the deliberate nature of the vandalism and the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has been generated in the news lately.

Steve Ybarra helped relocate the statue from near Southside Park in 1975 when he was deputy secretary of the Health and Welfare Agency.

He said the act was an insult to Mexican-American vets from all of America's wars.

"This stands for 68,000 Mexican-Americans of all wars," said Ybarra while holding up the broken nose of the rifle.

The statue was commissioned by a group of Mexican-American mothers whose sons died during World War II.

They spent three years making and selling tamales, tacos and other foods to raise the money and a monument was dedicated in 1951.

The move across the street from the State Capitol building is a symbol of the the community's patriotism.

Mina Perez can remember her mother volunteering her time cooking to help raise money for the statue.

"It's a slap in our fact to attack what represents our culture, our community, our service," said Perez, who is also a veteran.

Besides the reward, the veterans hope to raise money for repairs and also an expansion of the memorial, turning the statue from a local memorial to a statewide one representing the sacrifice of Mexican-American soldiers statewide.