On Wednesday, November 7, a small gathering was held just outside the History Park fence line to unveil San Jose’s contribution the World War II Walls of Honor initiative. Started as a grass roots organization by HSJ affiliate Spirit of ’45, the initiative strives to capture images and stories of World War II veterans across the county. Their goal is to gather materials in preparation for a massive 70th celebration of the end of the war in August 2015. This effort is challenged as an increasing number of remaining veterans are now dying due to age related illnesses.
A long panel of images facing Senter Road was hung on the outer fence near the corner of Phelan Avenue. During Wednesday’s event, one veteran of the Army Air Corp, Charlie Baker, proudly stood next to his image. As more images are received each year, the Spirit of ’45 organization plans to add to this Wall of Honor to be displayed annually in November.
Attending this informal event were the son and grandson of Private First Class Esau R. Olague of San Jose. Just 20 years old when he saw action, Esau had left his hometown leaving behind his new 19 year old wife Margaret with their baby boy Ronnie. Soon after her husband had left, Maggie sought war-time employment at a San Francisco ship yard. She was injured severely by a crane accident in February 1944 and died in June. Private Olague was killed in action on July 27, 1944 and is buried in France. As a result, fourteen month old Ronnie was an orphan and would be raised by his grandmother, Mrs. Frank Guerrero of San Jose.
Ronnie continues to live in San Jose. His grandson, Ralph Olague, is a member of the National Guard. Ronnie shared his family’s story with Robert Corpus from the Spirit of ’45. Touched by the story, Robert visited Private Olague’s gravesite in 2007 and returned with a small bottle of dirt from the plot bringing closure to the family.
As we remember our veterans of various conflicts, the stories of their families need to also be honored. For some like the Olague family, the ultimate sacrifice was made both abroad and at home.