WHITTIER — Rio Hondo College conducted ground-breaking ceremonies Feb. 24 for the Rio Hondo College Veterans Memorial, a tribute to the contributions of America’s armed forces and a celebration of the relationship between the college and the veterans in its student body.
The memorial is a six-foot-by-three-foot concrete monument topped by a brass plaque and bearing discs for each of the five branches of the U.S. military; a bench where students and guests may sit and reflect on the contributions of the nation’s veterans; and the flags of the United States, California and Rio Hondo College, a college spokesperson said.
The monument was designed by a campus task force formed in fall 2013 after members of the college’s Veterans Club raised the idea. After a wide-ranging discussion, the task force settled on the monument and location within Rio Hondo’s mid-quad area. An architect was brought in to help develop those ideas.
“The task force had great discussions and ideas regarding the location, the physical elements of the memorial, the final configuration, and the meaning of each element,” said committee chairman James L. Poper, Rio Hondo’s director of facilities services.
“We wanted it to be in a location where it would be highly visible to all members of the campus community.”
The memorial plaque bears two images — the Rio Hondo logo and the lamp of learning — and two inscriptions.
The first inscription gives the perspective of the servicemen and women.
It says: “We are known by many names: mother, father, son and daughter. We are the ones who have answered the call of our country in time of need. We changed our names to reflect our new roles, soldier, Marine, sailor and airman. We did so without hesitation. Regardless of the path we chose, we are now known as a collective family — the American armed forces veteran.”
The second inscription thanks Rio Hondo’s veterans for their service. It reads:
“In recognition and gratitude to all the men and women of Rio Hondo College who selflessly served our country in all branches of the U.S. military to defend this great nation in times of peace and war preserving freedom for all.”
Rio Hondo College President Teresa Dreyfuss said the memorial’s message reflects the values of the college community.
“Rio Hondo’s veterans are part of our family,” Dreyfuss said. “This monument not only acknowledges their service, but honors their relationship to the campus, to the learning environment we strive to create both in class and in our community as a whole.”
Rio Hondo Board of Trustees President Madeline Shapiro said the memorial stands as a message to the veterans who attend Rio Hondo College that the school values them as part of its diverse student body.
“Their voices are exceedingly important to us on campus,” Shapiro said. “As members of our military, they have shown their dedication to our country on all our behalf.
“As students at Rio Hondo College, they repeatedly show their dedication to this institution. This memorial emphasizes our appreciation for their commitment in both arenas.”
Construction is expected to take about two months. Rio Hondo College will hold a ceremonial ribbon cutting once it is complete later this spring, the spokesperson said.