ElSalvadorParquedeCuscutlanIn front of a wall inscribed with names of tens of thousands of fallen victims, she clutches a handful of roses and a laminated page with photo of her 17-year-old son. Tears glisten in the woman’s dark eyes as her daughter, a school teacher, speaks for the family. It is November 11, 2010, Veteran’s Day in America, but for this Salvadoran, it marks 21 years since her son disappeared while fighting a civil war that raged in El Salvador from 1980 through 1992.

I am in San Salvador, the capital city of the smallest and also the most densely populated country in Central America, El Salvador. The country borders the Pacific Ocean between Guatemala and Honduras, a beautiful tropical paradise sprinkled with pristine forests, active volcanoes and sparkling lakes. El Salvador is even gaining a reputation for having some of the best surfing in the world. The country is slowly working its way out of the rubbles of a civil war.

On an unscheduled stop at the Parque de Cuscutlan in El Salvador, I see signs of normalcy. A couple holding hands on a park bench. Another family enjoying a picnic. But the focal point is a sobering memorial lining the park, a granite wall, not unlike the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington DC. The wall is carved with some 30,000 names, divided by year of death and category, either “assassinated” or “disappeared.” Another 50,000 names don’t even appear on this wall, as they have not been identified.

As Americans remembered their Veterans last week, thousands of miles away in El Salvador, I shed tears for a family that lost their 17 year-old son, brother, and uncle during a civil war where brother fought against brother. As a mother and grandmother, I can’t comprehend how it must feel to lose a child and my heart goes out to the family.


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