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Hero Street Sends Its Own To War, Again

January 27, 1991

SILVIS, Ill. (AP) _ From 36 tiny bungalows lining dead-end Hero Street between Billy Goat Bluff and Honey Creek, more than 110 young Mexican-Americans have gone off to military service since 1941. Eight of the warriors have returned in caskets.

The patriotic tradition continues in the Persian Gulf war, filling its residents with a mixture of pride and anxiety.

Three residents of Hero Street and two descendants of the neighborhood are serving in the military. Two of them are on active duty in the war zone.

″I just don’t want history to repeat itself,″ said Henry Sandoval, a Hero Street native whose father and uncle died in World War II.

Sandoval’s son, Air Force Sgt. Mark Sandoval, is in Saudi Arabia, stationed 140 miles from occupied Kuwait.

″It was eerie when Mark left,″ he said. ″It was overpowering for me.

″I was 2 years old, just like Mark’s son Zachary, when my father left for Germany. He was 26 just like Mark.

″I had to take Zachary from Mark’s arms when he left for Saudi Arabia. It really tore me apart because suddenly I relived what my grandparents felt, and my mother felt, when my father left.″

Yet Sandoval, 48, defends Mark’s decision to follow his older sister into military service.

″It’s the Hero Street tradition. Whether you make the ultimate sacrifice or just peel potatoes. You’re doing something for this country.″

Hero Street actually was 2nd Street until the early 1970′s, when a campaign by residents persuaded the city to change its name.

Many of those residents still live in converted boxcars that were provided by the railroads when they brought their ancestors up from Mexico to work in the rail yards nearly a century ago. The railroads were long the chief source of work in Silvis, a town clustered among the Quad Cities on the Mississippi River in northwestern Illinois. Now the major employer is a John Deere & Co. plant, the world’s largest maker of farm equipment.

For Joe Munos, 70, and his family, life on Hero Street has always meant serving the country.

Not only did Munos and his three brothers fight for the United States - his brother Johnny died in Korea - but his three sons and his daughter joined the armed forces. His grandson is the latest to volunteer.

″It’s a tradition we started 50 years ago,″ Munos said. ″One guy went, and all the rest followed. They feel a duty to their country. And we never told them otherwise.″

Munos’ daughter, Staff Sgt. Mary Esther Munos, 37, is a career officer in the Army stationed in Korea.

His grandson, Brian Munos, 23, is in the Navy and on standby in Virginia for possible assignment in the Persian Gulf.

Another Hero Street warrior facing action is 21-year-old William De La Rosa, serving on the USS Ranger aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

″Everybody’s proud to live on Hero Street,″ said Judy De La Rosa, who hung red, white and blue ribbons on her door to show support for her son.

″I think he felt it was his duty to join,″ she said.

She also thinks her son was influenced to join the Navy from hearing the Hero Street history and living within sight of a memorial to the eight dead soldiers built into the Billy Goat Bluff hillside. A howitzer is anchored at its base.

Staff Sgt. Vincent Manrrique, 28, is with the Army in Germany where his mother, June Manrrique, hopes he stays.

″Since he was a little boy it was his dream to join the military like his brother,″ she said. ″Growing up here does make you more patriotic. I wouldn’t want to live anyplace else.″

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