August Gallegos, Army; Everard “Corky” Furgurson, Army; Emilio Villarreal, Navy; John Walling, Navy; Louis Verduzco, Air Force; Lawrence Marchetti, Army; Earl Noia, Navy; Thomas Menasco, Army Air Corps; Otis Menasco, Army; Carroll Cline, Navy.
We Salute You!
The names and faces of these military veterans and others line the light posts on L Street in Antioch. Launched in 2019, the Antioch Veterans Memorial Banner Program memorializes former veterans who served our country, lived in Antioch, and were honorably discharged. The banners are a fitting tribute to the sacrifices these men and women gave for our country. In the coming months, the City of Antioch will pay even more tribute to its veterans by showcasing the banners throughout the community.
The program is part of the many services offered by the Delta Veterans Group (DVG) of Antioch. The group, established in 2012, is made up of veterans and community residents devoted to helping our soldiers. DVG targets four areas of concern: housing, health, employment, and education.
The group’s founder Gerald “JR” Wilson made it a lifelong goal to help his brothers and sisters in arms. JR was raised in Antioch and Pittsburg.
At 17 years old, JR found himself homeless, living on the streets of East Contra Costa County at night and working during the day before joining the U.S. Army, serving from 1990 to 1994. He joined D.A.V. in 1997 as a life member in North Virginia. In 2002, he was promoted to Assistant Supervisor in San Diego.
“It’s very heartfelt for me, seeing the banners flying high in my hometown. Commemorating the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifices for our freedom is a stark reminder that we owe them a great deal of gratitude.”
Upon returning home to Antioch, JR noticed an increase in homelessness among our veterans.
But it goes beyond homelessness. JR points to disturbing data that is often overlooked. The suicide rate among our veterans is rapidly climbing due to the increased rate of veterans returning home with PTS (post-traumatic stress) and TBI (traumatic brain injury). Studies have shown that two out of three veterans suffering from PTS and TBI are not receiving the treatment they need to overcome these oftentimes unseen injuries.
JR decided to take action and founded Delta Veterans Group in Antioch.
“We simply didn’t want to put a Band-Aid on the issues veterans deal with day in and day out,” comments JR. “So, we put together a host of programs in which veterans can get assistance so they can take charge of their lives. We don’t give handouts; we give a hand up.”
With the help of volunteers, business leaders, and city support, DVG debuted, “Stand Down on the Delta,” a first for Antioch. Stand Down on the Delta made its debut in 2015 and brought in over 350 homeless and at-risk of becoming homeless veterans and their families. The four-day event offered veterans a host of services–full medical treatments, court and legal services, DMV, chaplain services, housing, addiction and mental health counseling, employment, and a myriad of other community services. During the event, veterans were also provided with clothing, meals, showers, sleeping tents, and a safe place to “stand down” for the duration.
Delta Veterans Group believes the banner program could not come at a better time, given the political unrest in many parts of the country. For Tom Menasco, DVG chair and Vietnam veteran, the banners are intense. Every time he drives on L Street and looks up at his comrades, he pauses to reflect.
“It’s very heartfelt for me, seeing the banners flying high in my hometown. Commemorating the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifices for our freedom is a stark reminder that we owe them a great deal of gratitude,” comments Tom.
The banner project for Tom has been a personal work in progress since it commenced a year ago. His dad and uncle are honored with their own banner. Military duty runs strong in his family. His dad, Thomas H. Menasco, was part of the 14th Air Service Squadron from 1942 to 1945. As an airplane and engine mechanic stationed in Iceland, he repaired and maintained bombers and other aircraft that toured Germany and other countries during WWII. He was decorated with the American Campaign Medal, European African Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal.
“Dad gave everything to his military service. He worked on military aircraft and was proud of his work. He always emphasized that attention to detail was critical to his job in keeping our troops safe. Not doing a good job, not paying attention, could put our soldiers in harm’s way. He would always say that the devil is in the detail. That has always stuck with me since I was a little kid,” recalls Tom.
The banners remember and honor those who have served in the past to preserve the freedoms we all enjoy. “It’s all about pride. I think this gives the community so much pride. They sacrificed so much so we can enjoy the freedoms we often take for granted. The more we can emphasize this to our younger generation the better,” Tom adds.
In the coming weeks, banners will have a larger presence. Currently, the banners start at the Veterans Memorial on the marina, they line L Street, and will soon stretch to the Highway 4 bypass. Other sites have been targeted: 18th and L, and Lone Tree.
The Antioch Veterans Memorial Banner honors those with deep Antioch ties and who are no longer living. The free banner, measuring eight feet in length, displays a photo, name, rank, and service branch.
DVG hopes to promote other events happening in the month of November, including Antioch Veteran of the Year, Antioch Lifetime Veteran of the Year, and the Antioch Veteran Day Ceremonies.
To learn more about DVG, or to sign up to volunteer or even make a donation, please visit www.deltaveteransgroup.org.