There is a small town in California by the name of Dinuba that has approximately 25,000 population. In 2014 Ronny and Romelia Castillo travelled to Washington DC as part of a group visiting that city with their congressional representative. They were to visit the Smithsonian; however, on the day scheduled for that event, Ronny told Romelia, that instead he would like to take her to visit the Viet Nam Memorial Wall. She confesses that, at that time, she had not heard of it but that her husband had previously visited the wall in a prior visit to DC.
As they arrived at the site of the Viet Nam Memorial, she saw the many names of those soldiers that had been killed in that war. She further stated that upon touching the wall she was overcome by many emotions and at that moment she decided that she also wanted to do something for those killed and the many veterans. So, she told her husband, Ronny, of her plans and he agreed to support her efforts even though neither one of them is a veteran.
Upon returning home to Dinuba she began her quest, together with American Legion Post 19. to build a permanent Viet Nam Memorial Wall in her city, Dinuba. She related that at first many people told her it could not be done and some even ridiculed her, but she was determined. The Viet Nam Veterans from Tulare, California provided her with contact information in regards to the Wall.
Slowly but surely she obtained funding and information in putting together fundraisers, since she had learned that the size of the wall she wanted would cost $177,000.00 dollars. There are several size walls with the one she selected being one of the larger ones. Besides those individuals that said it couldn’t be done there were many that supported the idea with donations of their time and money. The veteran’s organizations began to give money as a Post and as individuals. They also helped, along with many community people, with selling menudo, posole, chile verde, holding raffles and little by little the money started growing as more individuals started to believe and support the idea, that it could be done.
The Central Valley Chapter Sergeant at Arms, Jacob Huerta and his wife Mary, gave a lot of time and energy as cooks for the hundreds of BBQs that were served as well as the wives, and families that spent their week ends cooking, selling tickets and approaching other organizations to donate.
Youth Clubs, Students, church groups and many other city and county organizations supported the Viet Nam Memorial Wall Project and in 2018 the $177,000.00 dollars were paid in just a year and a half from the start of Romelia Castillo and her husband Ronny (who pasted away several years ago and did not live to see their dream completed). However, Ms. Castillo says that he was the corner stone of her efforts who drove her to all her presentations asking for donations and encourage them to become involved. She said he was the one that gave her the strength and total support to continue.
I thoroughly believe that all things are possible, but one has to first believe it can be done. Many times, we are defeated by saying “it can’t be done”. Latinos need to be like Ronnie and Romelia Castillo who saw possibilities and made them happen, she never thought it won’t be done.
Credit belongs to those that strongly supported the idea and were some of the first to join “Romelia’s Dream” the following are the members of the first committee for the purchasing and building of the Dinuba Veterans Viet Nam Memorial Wall.
Romelia Castillo, Ronnie Castillo, Joe Rivera, Alvaro Gonzalez Moses Ibarra and Jacob Huerta and his wife Maria. Local Commander and NLPOA Central Valley Chapter Sgt.@ Arms. Special recognition to Clyde Galaviz, NLPOA Parliamentarian who was always there as cook, waiter, tortilla warmer or whatever job that needed to be done. These Dinuba folks are true believers that “Si Se Puede”. There are many community folks that also helped in making this possible and their assistance is greatly appreciated, thank you to you all, if not for your efforts it would have been difficult, if not impossible to complete.
In May 27, 2014, she wrote, this memorial stands in memory of all individuals, heroes that died or what they believed our freedom “This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brace.” Elmer Davis.
This Memorial Day, and throughout the year visit a veteran and give them your thanks especially our World War II Veterans that are rapidly leaving us. You can make a difference in their lives. If you are ever in Central California take a side trip to Dinuba and see the wonderful memorial wall that is located in the Veterans Memorial Building Yard and is dedicated for the many who gave some and those that gave their all.