On February 13, 1945, Pfc. Manuel Perez, Jr., led fellow members of the United States 11th Airborne Infantry Division in an assault on an enemy strong point during the Philippines campaign. Perez succeeded in destroying a heavily defended pillbox, and for his actions that day he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest decoration our military can bestow upon a soldier. Tragically, Pfc. Perez was killed in action a month later, but his name and legacy live on in a small park in south Oklahoma City, near his 1923 birthplace.
Regretfully, Manuel Perez Park at SW 14th and Harvey has long been neglected. With the coordination efforts of local Keep America Beautiful affiliate, Keep Oklahoma Beautiful and OKC Beautiful, 16 volunteers along with 9 staff and board members, participated in ridding Manuel Perez Park of litter, mulched around grand beautiful trees, and planted flowers around the monument lauding Pfc. Perez. Additionally, this crew gave the park benches and big toy a fresh coat of paint.
America’s leading beer brand, Bud Light in partnership with Keep America Beautiful (KAB), brought the volunteer project “Do Good. Have Fun.” to Oklahoma City. Lisa Synar, Executive Director of OKC Beautiful (OKCB) and Executive Director Jeanette Nance of Keep Oklahoma Beautiful (KOB) joined together and with the permission of Oklahoma City parks department, chose this neglected memorial as the project. Local area adults were recruited to register with Bud Light online to help, “Do Good. Have Fun.” The event was held this past Saturday, May 31, 2014 from 8:00am to Noon. Afterwards the group enjoyed lunch together with a little refreshment contributed by Bud Light.
Keep America Beautiful is the nation’s leading nonprofit that brings people together to build and sustain vibrant communities. Keep Oklahoma Beautiful is the statewide affiliate and OKC Beautiful is the local affiliate. These two work together to empower Oklahoma citizens to preserve and enhance natural beauty, ensure a healthy environment and to improve the image and appearance of the communities within which we live.
Helping in this small community just south of the beautiful Sky Bridge over I-40, meant so much to the families surrounding the park, several of whom came out to help. At the end of the day, “we did a good thing” said Lisa Synar, of OKCB. “To witness the teary eyed thank you of the small group that has worked so hard to save this small park was a blessing beyond measure,” said Jeanette Nance of KOB. During the clean up at the end of the project a woman, her child, and her mother drove slowly by, rolled down the car window and said to the group, “I grew up playing here, this is an amazing thing you have done, thank you so much!”