Spouse campaigns to name street for husband
By Laura B. Martinez - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Apr 4, 2007 19:45:29 EDT
BROWNSVILLE, Texas — Elisa E. Perez is on a mission.
It’s a task she’s been on for at least two years.
She’s had several doors closed on her. There have been promises by local, county and state officials that have been broken.
But the Brownsville mother and widow of a fallen soldier says she’s not going to give up until she sees a street named after her husband, Sgt. Hector Rene Perez.
“My mission is Hector. He gave his life willingly. He gave his life for freedom,” Elisa Perez said trying to hold back tears as she looked through a scrapbook with various certificates of award her husband has received, including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
“He left behind his family, three daughters and myself,” Elisa Perez said.
Sgt. Hector Rene Perez, known as Sgt. P by his fellow soldiers, was killed July 24, 2003, in Al Hawada, just south of Mosul, Iraq. He served with the 101st Airborne Division’s Company A, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry.
The day before her husband’s deployment, Elisa Perez said she saw many military duffle bags that were left untouched. Her husband told her they belonged to soldiers who failed to report to duty.
“He didn’t run. They said, ‘OK, you are being deployed.’ He was ready,” Perez said.
She has talked to city, county and state officials about naming a street after her husband and all said they could “get it done.” But the letters she’s sent and telephone calls she’s made to them went unacknowledged.
“For me to have to go jumping these hurdles upsets me because [Hector] didn’t question. He just went full force and did his job”, Perez said. “If it wasn’t for [the soldiers], where would we be? We don’t have to worry about people throwing bombs at us at home.
“I’m knocking at doors and nobody wants to open them,” Perez said as she wiped away the tears in her eyes.
She knows she isn’t asking for something that has not been done for others who also have the right to be honored, she said.
A street outside of San Benito is named after Juan G. Garza Jr., a Marine who was killed in Iraq in April 2003, and there are two streets next to the Federal Courthouse that are named after U.S. District Judges Filemon B. Vela and Reynaldo Garza.
There are also parks and buildings that have been named and renamed, as well.
Brownsville Mayor Eddie Trevino Jr. said he remembers meeting with Perez and discussing the street naming issue with her. Trevino said he talked to other city officials about her proposal, but they cautioned him what it might mean to other families who also lost loved ones in the war.
There are also concerns of the residents that need to be addressed should the renaming affect their street, he said.
“Oftentimes, the designation is more symbolic because people who live on that street have to end up changing their addresses on credit cards, bills ... everything,” Trevino said. “That was a complaint I heard last time we tried to rename a street. It’s a very difficult situation.”
Trevino said he’s brought up Elisa Perez’s proposal to new developers and that some liked the idea but admitted to never following through.
“I’ll look into it again. ... Hopefully, we can get something done before I leave office,” said Trevino, whose term ends in May.
Former Cameron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa said he spoke to Perez in 2006 about the street naming and talked about the possibility of renaming Carmen Avenue, a new street maintained by the county, after her husband.
Commissioner John Wood urged that the court be “more cautious” when renaming streets because of a fuss that occurred after the county renamed Share Road, a street in Los Fresnos, after former mayors Eddie and Mercedes Cantu. Residents were upset the naming occurred without their knowledge, they claimed.
Hinojosa was also running for re-election around the time he talked to Elisa Perez and said the proposal “got caught in the middle” of the elections.
“We just ran out of time,” he said. “I left, and nobody picked up on it.”
Hinojosa said it was not done intentionally and meant no disrespect to the Perez family.
Perez also met with incoming state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, in late 2006 at a school function. Lucio said he would back her up on the request if she could get something in writing.
Perez heard from the freshman representative last week, she said.
Lucio said that because Perez’s request is out of his jurisdiction, meaning it is something that either the city or county should address, he cannot execute any paperwork. However, he said Perez has his complete support and is having his staff explore options with the city and county.
“Sometimes, these things take time, but people truly appreciate what she is going through. ... Her husband died and paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” Lucio said. “It’s extremely humbling, and I’m honored to participate” in her request.
On Jan. 31, Perez sent a letter to incoming County Judge Carlos Cascos, making the same request. She outlined her previous discussions with Trevino and Hinojosa. Although Perez has not received any response from Cascos’ office, the judge said the issue is being worked on, and a street is already under consideration.
“I wish we could do more,” Cascos said, referring to naming a park or school after her husband but that there is nothing available.
County Administrator Pete Sepulveda Jr. said the street being considered for renaming is Florida Avenue, which has about 20 residents. The residents are being notified of the proposal by flier and are being asked if they will accept the name change.
“The people who live on the street have a right” to have input, Cascos said. Sepulveda said if the residents agree to the renaming, the county will assist them with making transitions such as change of addresses as smooth as possible.
Cascos said if residents on the street are hesitant, there shouldn’t be a problem locating another one.
“We will find something else,” Cascos said. “There are a whole bunch of streets that can be used to pay tribute.”
Military Connection's Comments:
It is understandable why Elisa Perez is frustrated. She wants some recognition for the sacrifice her family has made. Her husband went to war for our freedom, and paid the ultimate price. She wants his name to be honored and remembered. It is unfortunate that government bureaucracy is bogging down the process. Perhaps she will explore other avenues, such as naming a stretch of highway or freeway in his name. That is an honor that has been awarded to fallen policemen. But in the interim, we hope she knows how much the American people feel for her in her loss. We mourn the loss of every precious life lost in this terrible war. We wish all of our men and women in uniform a safe and speedy return home.