When patrons enter 4th Street Eatery, it’s hard to miss the huge American flag on the wall and the array of photographs beneath it, each one an image of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces from San Benito County.
Owners Mark and Jeannette Pulido started the growing collection of 84 photos to honor veterans, as well as those currently serving. The couple celebrated their first year in business on May 4, while under the shelter-in-place order.
“There have been a lot of challenges since the pandemic started,” Mark said. “It has been tough, hard to deal with. Every day is different, but we are getting past it.”
The memorial wall came about spontaneously, shortly after 4th Street Eatery opened.
“It was a last-minute decision to put the flag up,” Mark said. “We had it in mind and once we did it we thought, ‘we should put some local veterans on the wall.’”
Mark served in the Air Force from 1991 to 1997. The first veteran to make the wall was his uncle, Mike Pulido.
“My uncle Mike served 20 years in the Air Force, active and reserve,” Mark said. “I pitched the wall to him and he thought it was an amazing idea. He told me to do it, so his picture was the first one up there.”
Uncle Mike then told his veteran friends to bring their pictures into the restaurant for the memorial wall.
“I know quite a few of the ones up there,” Mike said. “Some of them are still with us, some passed long ago.”
Soon, more pictures were added as word of the tribute spread.
“We had two more just this week,” Mark said. “You see people, maybe with loved ones who passed on, and they bring in a picture. It is heartwarming, they get so excited to put a husband or a relative on the wall.”
The best aspect of the memorial wall for Mark is getting the chance to speak with the veterans or their families who come in to take part in the tribute.
“We have been here when families come in or a wife brings in a picture and just has a meltdown,” he said. “I let one woman hang a picture of her husband up herself and she kissed it before it went onto the wall.”
Mark said one restaurant customer is a Korean War veteran who lost all his possessions when his house burned down.
“He tried and tried to find a picture to put up there,” Mark said. “When he finally found one, he gave me the original, the only picture he had from his service.”
Mark later returned the original photograph after making a copy that hangs on the wall today.
One of Mark’s goals for the memorial wall is to find and display the burial flag given to the family of Joseph John Borovich, the only San Benito County serviceman killed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Borovich grew up in Hollister and was 19 years old when he died. He served aboard the USS Arizona when a direct hit sank the ship, killing 1,177 servicemen.
Reflecting on his own time in the armed forces, Mark shared a personal appreciation for those serving the country.
“It is too bad we are not going to have the parades and good things that happen on Memorial Day,” he said. “If there is one thing I would like to say, it is a complete thank you to all veterans. It is important to get them represented. The more San Benito servicemen we can get up there, the better.”