by John Larson
SOCORRO – Nineteen year old Isidro Baca was killed in action while serving with the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam August 21,1967. Less than three months later, on Veterans Day, Isidro Baca Memorial Park, between Center and Court streets, was dedicated to all servicemen who died in the line of duty.
Monday night, the Socorro City Council approved a Memorandum of Agreement between the city and Socorro County to begin renovating the park.
Ann Baca, Isidro’s sister, publicly thanked the city and the county governments for making the agreement. She said the park would honor veterans of five military branches.
“It is a long time coming. Veterans do deserve a nice park,” Baca said of the renovations. “Without them we would not have our freedoms today.”
Councilor Chuck Zimmerly said veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan were also being recognized.
“It helps to have a nice place for a gathering to honor all those people,” he said.
In an interview, Ann Baca remembered her brother as a good older brother.
“I was 14 years old when he was killed in action, so there was a five year difference in our ages,” she said. “Isidro was a typical older brother, always playing jokes on me. One time while I had braces on my teeth he told me if I went outside I would be electrocuted.”
She said she went to her first rock concert because of Isidro.
“He was a huge fan of the Dave Clark Five, and they were coming to the Civic Auditorium in Albuquerque,” Baca said. “He wanted to go and our Mom said, ‘you can go if you take Ann.’ That was my first concert.”
Isidro Baca was studying to be an X-Ray technician when he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was in Vietnam six months when his squad was ambushed by Viet Cong near Ca Lu in Quang Tri province.
When the park was dedicated, the memorial was a simple brick memorial.
“In 1993 my dad got together with committee members and came up with the pyramid. And to add all the names on the pyramid,” Baca said. “It was wonderful how the community came together and dedicated the park so soon after Isidro was killed.”
In addition to Isidro Baca, the dedication plaque honors Socorrans David R. Alexander, Willie B. Lee, Florentino Tafoya Jr., George Eloy Tafoya, and John V. Tafoya.
Baca said she was invited to a Marine Corps reunion to be held in Arlington, Virginia in August, 2010.
According to County Manager Delilah Walsh, the county commission approved the agreement at its Oct. 27 meeting.
“A few changes will be made, including removing the coastal artillery cannon,” Walsh said. “The look of the park will be similar to that in front of City Hall, with a central walkway surrounded by landscaping, and five towers with plaques dedicated to each branch of the military - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.”