SOUTH OMAHA Military
What were the various goals and types of services provided by the American G.I. Forum?
American G.I. Forum
Research compiled by: Jason A., Elyssa F., Juan T.R.
le negó sus funerales.
Eso es discriminación
para el pobre ser humano;
ni siquiera en el panteón
admiten al mexicano.
Johnson siendo senador
por el estado de Texas,
se le ablandó el corazón
al escuchar nuestras quejas.
denied him a funeral.
That is discrimination
against a poor human being;
not even in a cemetery
do they allow a Mexican.
Johnson being a senator
for the state of Texas,
felt his heart soften
when he heard our complaints.
Excerpt from the ballad, “Discriminación a un martir”
The song above was a tribute of dedication to Felix Longoria, a solider who was killed in action in WWII. The funeral director in his hometown of Three Rivers, Texas denied his burial rights. Dr. Hector Perez Garcia, the head of the American G.I. Forum, used the Forum’s resources to help Longoria family. Eventually, the case was resolved and the Forum grew in popularity.
The first chapter of the American GI Forum in Nebraska was started by a group of veterans in North Platte, who struggled to continue because they didn’t have enough veterans or funds. Later, on October 8, 1957, Fourteen Latino veterans living in Omaha formed The Omaha Chapter of the American G.I. Forum. Keeping the Omaha Chapter was tough, but the veterans sacrificed their homes, money, and free time. Many Mexican-American families lived in Omaha as well as Latino veterans. Thanks to the help from Dr. Garcia, the Omaha veterans were able to receive equal rights as well as education that would benefit the Mexican-American community.
Dr. Hector Garcia was fairly familiar to the Nebraska landscape. He completed his residency as a medical doctor at Saint Joseph Medical Center, which today is known as Alegent Creighton Health. He then wanted to help his country and volunteered as an Army medic during WWII. After completing his service, Dr. Garcia came back to South Texas and opened a medical clinic that helped the poor - especially Mexicans. When many families could not pay for Dr. Garcia’s services he always said, “Pay what you can or when you can.” His clinic was a success for many Mexican people.
Though Dr. Garcia was a respected physician, he is better remembered as the founder and national leader of the American G.I. Forum. He drove to every chapter and to attend annual American G.I. Forum conventions throughout the United States. Mary Louise Plaza, a charter member of the Omaha Women's chapter, stated that she saw Dr. Garcia many times at national conventions. He was supportive of the G.I. Forum in Nebraska, and when he was available, he drove from Texas to come to visit members at the Omaha chapter for events such as the installation of new officers. He was a very busy man with the Forum, tying to show that Mexican-Americans changed the image of Mexicans from being “dirty people” to a group of great Americans who served in the war and helped to change history. In fact, two out of three Nebraska Medal of Honor winners were Mexican Americans. His hope was education of Mexican-Americans for many generations to come. Dr. Garcia wanted the Latino community to be successful in their education and careers. His dream for the Forum was to get equal rights for all ethnic groups, but especially the rights of veterans. His wishes came true with the help of many volunteers, workers, and members for making the legacy continue for generations.
The G.I. Forum building, at 2002 N street, has been through so much. It started out as a building people would rather forget about, but with a little love and dedication from the founding families of the Omaha chapter, this building became an important landmark in South Omaha. In the early days the Forum did not have enough money to buy even this condemned building. Members badly wanted a place to call their own, so the families of I.C. Plaza, Paul Marquez, and Paul Aranza mortgaged their homes for the down payment. Even through all the hardships they went through, I.C’s widow, Mary Louise stated she “…would still do it all again.” Volunteer work made this building come to life. People volunteered for the electrical work, plumbing, and carpentry. Members still volunteer today, with everything from watering the flowers to touching up the mural that was painted in recent years. The mural located on the east side of the building has the inspirational quotes; “Pain is temporary, Pride is forever,” as well as “Freedom is never free.” Each segment of the mural represents a different war; WWI, WW2, the Korean War, and the Vietnam conflict. The entire last segment represents the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. If the G.I. Forum had not been started in Omaha, who knows what the city would look like today? This organization has impacted the community so much, all thanks to the hard working people that dedicated their lives to getting this all up and running.
The American G.I. Forum recognizes well-rounded students who are trying to further their education. Their slogan “ Education is freedom and freedom is everybody’s business” is a huge reason that members of the G.I. Forum work hard to fundraise for scholarships. The scholarship program exists to help young members of the community pay for their education just, as Dr. Hector P. Garcia, the founder, would have wanted. He worked hard for Mexican-Americans to become better educated to gain better employment and make their lives more pleasant. Dr. Garcia’s dream is being achieved since many generations of members in the Omaha Chapter of the American G.I. Forum continue to keep the legacy of promoting education alive.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valorous action presented by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress. President Abraham Lincoln, first signed the bill S.J. No. 82 into law. Per capita, Hispanic soldiers have received more Medal of Honor's than any other racial group.
Edward “Babe” Gomez was a Private 1st Class in the U.S. Marines during the Korean War. While looking for a new location to re-load their ammunition his platoon stumbled upon a meeting point and “Babe” volunteered to go and check out the situation. Suddenly he saw a grenade in an abandoned trench. He yelled for his comrades to watch out and run for cover while he ran into the trench throwing himself on top of the grenade. The young man’s body absorbed the impact and he died. he was awarded the Medal of Honor because he showed great bravery and courage to risk his life for his country.
Miguel Keith was a Lance Corporal in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Keith was already seriously wounded in battle. On May 8, 1970, members of his platoon, who were already outnumbered, came under a heavy ground attack. At that moment, a wounded Keith, ran to check the security of a defensive position for his comrades. He was running for cover and was killed by a barrage of machine gun fire.