It may have been 12 years in the making, but U.S. Army corporal Armando Diaz Ramos, killed in service during the Vietnam era, received a hero’s recognition on Veteran’s Day, November 11.
“Mando” was not necessarily recognized for how he served his country but for being part of a close-knit neighborhood and a high school that appreciated his ultimate sacrifice.
Dedicated on Veteran’s Day 2003, a concrete-and-marble monument is just inside San Dieguito Academy high school campus' main entrance off Santa Fe Drive in Encinitas. hosts a fallen alumni veterans’ memorial. The memorial to students who died in service during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam contains 19 names.
For some reason, the 1969 graduate was left off the original 2003 list. It could be that Department of Defense records indicated Ramos wasn’t initially reported as killed in action, or specifically in Vietnam.
In 1971, Ramos was training in Germany just prior to being shipped out to Southeast Asia. He and a fellow soldier were accidentally run over by a tank.
In September, close family friends and retired USMC warrant officer Solomon Saenz brought the issue to the school’s alumni association. Together with the family, plans were made to add Ramos’s name and honor him in a special ceremony.
The engraver who worked on the 2003 monument gladly came to the campus to place Ramos’s name. There happened to be one spot left in the space dedicated to casualties of the Vietnam era. Ramos’s name fit perfectly with his fellow fallen classmates.
“After high school, he was a ranger at Felicita Park. He loved the environment and wanted to make sure kids were safe playing in the outdoors,” said Saenz during the ceremony, offered in both English and Spanish. “He was always a helpful, loving, respectful, humorous young man.”
“When he got the draft letter, he was honored to be asked to serve and protect his country,” Saenz added.
Thirty days before shipping out to Vietnam, Ramos was to return briefly from Germany to his Solana Beach neighborhood of Eden Garden and marry his love, Helen “Chunkie” Hernandez, from the school’s class of ’71.
Over 50 family members, friends, alumni, and current students joined the unveiling of the monument’s 20th name and to honor Ramos as a hometown boy.
Ramos’s father, Carlos, along with Hernandez, laid flowers beneath his name on the monument, to the cheers and tears from his numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins in attendance.
Fortunately, it was reported to the gathering that no alumni names have needed to be added from Iraq or Afghanistan. The ceremony closed with a group affirmation: “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”