Ever since 2012, Carlos Aguilar has painted the faces of nearly 200 Latino war veterans, but now an act of vandalism has ruined his work of art.
Aguilar's "Heroes Among Us" mural in Santa Ana was recently vandalized for the first time in since he began painting it. Police say the blue spray paint, which now covers nearly two dozen portraits, is the tag of a local gang.
"I always have faith in my people, my culture, you know, that we´re better than this," Aguilar said. "But then I come around and I see this, it´s a lack of respect."
Aguilar started his project working off donations and photos of Latino war veterans, all from the Logan neighborhood. Those vets fought in two world wars, Iraq and other conflicts.
The families of those soldiers, sailors and medics on that two-story wall know Aguilar, which is why they too are incensed at the vandalism.
"That man is my dad," said Tom Azarte as he pointed to the destroyed portrait of his father. "When it comes to things like this, this is just out of control," he said. "Logan, of all neighborhoods, never has this."
Police are concerned because the graffiti is out of place. The wall, they say, had always been considered off limits to taggers out of respect to the community. They're hoping that a surveillance camera pointed at the mural may help them eventually find the culprits.
In the meantime, Aguilar says his stucco canvas will be cleaned off and repainted. He estimates it will cost $6,000, but he's determined to recreate the mural with the same message he always wanted others to understand.
"I wanted to showcase them how we already know: true and valiant," he said.