'Psychedelic' artwork at war memorial outrages vets

September 6, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The group has taken its concerns and complaints to local officials. But pleas for help have gone unanswered.

Several veterans groups in Chicago's Little Village community are outraged over a colorful piece of artwork fixed to the base of a war memorial at 26th and South Kolin.

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The marble monument in the center of the bitter controversy is named after hometown hero Manuel Perez, Jr., who was killed in World War II.

"The veterans themselves take it as an insult. This art should be something more veteran-minded," said Joseph Ramirez, Manuel Perez Jr. Post 1017 commander.

One vet took offense to the use of "psychedelic" colors and a yin-yang symbol.

The mural went up about a year and a half ago. Since then, local organizations like AMVETS Post 326, the Mexican American Veterans Association, the Military Order of the Purple Hearts and the Manuel Perez Jr. Plaza American Legion have been trying to get rid of it.

After months of feeling ignored, Monday, they held a news conference calling on city leaders to support them.

"We met with elected officials who tried to rectify the problem only through meetings, conversations, phone calls, and nothing was set to move forward to make changes," said Ramirez.

The veterans groups want to cover this mural and start from scratch. They want to put the 40 Hispanic Medal of Honor recipients on the wall, and they plan to do this with or without permission.

"Who is gonna stop us?" said Luna. "The alderman? He really doesn't care. He doesn't care what happens to this plaza anyway."

The veterans say Alderman Ricardo Munoz hasn't been helpful. They blame him in part for allowing a community group called Enlace Chicago to put the mural in place.

Enlace's executive director Michael Rodriguez says they included the veterans groups before the artwork was ever installed.

" We involved the commander of the Manuel Perez Post, who signed off on everything we did here," said Rodriguez. "Various descendants of Manuel Perez were part of the process, so I'm very happy with our end product."

But the veterans groups disagree and add that local leaders have also allowed the plaza to fall into disrepair. In their eyes, it's not the way a fallen hero should be remembered.

Alderman Munoz has not returned calls asking for his reaction to the group's claims.

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