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Will city listen to Veterans?



In a recent City Council vote, a contentious issue emerged that has stirred the passions of the community, particularly its Veteran members. The topic at hand is the proposal for a civilian memorial in one of our city's cherished parks, a move that has sparked a fiery debate among residents and Veterans alike. Tragically, an unattended child lost her life at Veterans Memorial Park last year, and a proposal to erect a memorial for this child at the park was introduced to the City Council. The Veterans Advisory Board has met many times with unanimous opposition to this proposal. We, the Veterans, offered our condolences and alternate options, including a memorial erected in the median across from, or even adjacent to the bus stop at the entrance of the park.

As a resident and an engaged member of the Veteran community, I, like many others, have concerns about this proposition. The proposal for a non-Veteran memorial has raised questions about the allocation of resources and the true purpose and intent behind this decision, including both its construction and inevitable lifelong maintenance. As per city ordinance and Las Cruces Parks and Recreation policy, Veterans Memorial Park is a special-use park, reserved exclusively for the remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. However, the City Council voted in support of this proposal, despite city ordinance, Parks and Rec policy, and against the advice from the Veterans Advisory Board. The near-unanimous opposition from the Veteran community brings to light the need for a more comprehensive discussion and reconsideration of this proposition. 

Having served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, I understand the importance of commemorating those who have sacrificed their lives for our nation. When I walk through Veterans Memorial Park, I feel honored to be surrounded by family. As brothers and sisters in arms, all Veterans are united in this feeling. Erecting this memorial is no different than erecting a memorial for non-relatives at a family member's resting place. It is disrespectful to both our Las Cruces family and to our family across the United States of America.

What adds to the controversy is the exception made to previously established rules, which has raised eyebrows and created an air of inconsistency. The City Council's decision to deviate from established procedures has fueled skepticism and added to the confusion surrounding this issue. One of the more alarming concerns raised by this is the establishment of a new precedent. If one local civilian has a memorial erected on hallowed Veteran grounds, what is to stop it from happening again? This erodes honor and decimates the sacrifice these men and women made for our country. Las Cruces has designated itself a Purple Heart City, which is a designation meant for a municipality that expresses gratitude toward and honors those who have been wounded or killed in defense of this nation. Ironically, the City Council’s actions are opposite of those to be expected of a Purple Heart City.

The Veteran community, which is deeply rooted in the spirit of unity and collective decision-making, feels a sense of disconnection and frustration over the lack of consultation in this matter. The near-unanimous opposition emphasizes the need for transparent communication and an inclusive approach when making decisions that impact the community. Our City Council must recognize the concerns raised by the Veteran community and engage in open dialogue to better understand the perspectives and values that unite us. We must work together to find a solution that honors the sacrifice of Veterans while ensuring the interests of the community at large are represented. If the City Council is unwilling to listen to and embrace advice from Veterans about Veterans, then perhaps it is time to elect new leadership in our city. I encourage all Veterans and locals alike to reach out to your council members and ask city leadership, “Why?”, when they come knocking at your door for votes.

In the spirit of collaboration and understanding, let us hope that the City Council reevaluates this decision and explores alternative ways to address this issue while respecting the sacrifice of our servicemembers and maintaining the unity that defines our community.

Chad Pilkington
US Army Combat Veteran
Las Cruces