NewsLocal News


CCISD sets plan to replace tree, plaque honoring army soldier at Cullen Elementary

Veteran's memorial was removed for the construction of new CCISD school
Posted at 9:49 PM, May 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-12 17:03:32-04

UPDATE - 5/12/2023

The Corpus Christi Independent School District has announced that they will be reinstalling the memorial for Army Spc. Andy Alaniz after construction at the new Cullen Place Elementary School is complete, according to a release.

Cullen Place Elementary School was the site of a memorial for Alaniz, who served in Operation Desert Storm.

The memorial featured a tree and plaque placed at its original spot in 1991.

The CCISD released a statement in regards to the future of the tree and plaque since it was removed:

Following recent rains, and with additional heavy rain in the forecast, it became apparent that additional drainage support for the new building necessitated the removal of the approximately 31-year-old tree and plaque. After sharing the situation with the Alaniz family, the tree was removed and the plaque stored in a safe, secure location on district property until next steps could be determined. Following additional conversations with the Alaniz family, we are pleased to share that, once construction is complete, a new tree will be placed on the school’s property and accompanied by the plaque. CCISD looks forward to honoring the memory of Spc. Alaniz as part of the school’s grand opening festivities later this year. A date for the celebration and recognition will be announced in the coming months.

UPDATE - 5/10/2023

A tree that was planted in honor of a veteran on Greenway Drive has stirred up a lot of concern for several residents in Corpus Christi.

For 32 years, an oak tree with a special plaque has been on the property of the Old Cullen middle school. It stood strongly as a tribute to army specialist Andy Alaniz. He was the first serviceman from the Corpus Christi area killed in Operation Desert Storm.

Kathryn Stevens, a teacher at Cullen Middle School at the time, motivated her students to put the memorial together back in April of 1991.

“I remembered when it happened, and when my middle school students found out about it, they were really upset. He had just recently graduated from Moody High School. He was only 20 years old,” Stevens said.

She said that the CCISD’s decision to tear down the tree has left her heart broken.

“Then I heard your report last night at 10 o’clock that they had bulldozed it and I was devastated,” she said.

KRIS 6 News reported CCISD officials told us the tree was taking down for drainage; 3-decade legacy gone in an instant.

“That this tree needed to be removed because of drainage. I think some prevision should have been made in the construction plans,” she said. “Someone should have looked at the site, seen that this was a memorial tree with a plaque—a big, large plaque in cement and made some arrangements to make sure the construction would not affect the tree.”

In a statement sent from CCISD said, “Corpus Christi ISD shared information with Spec. Alaniz’s family prior to the plaque’s removal and is actively working to determine next steps for the commemorative plaque.”

Steven said that she was promised the tree would not be removed.

“When they closed Cullen Middle School and then I saw that they were about to tear it down, I contacted superintendent, Roland Hernandez to make sure the Patriot Oak Tree that we had planted all those years ago would be safe,” she said.

ORIGINAL - 5/9/2023

Over three decades ago, four South Texans were killed during Operation Desert Storm. One of them was 20-year-old Andy Alaniz from Corpus Christi.

A tree was planted at Cullen Middle School in honor of his service and sacrifice. A plaque was also a part of that memorial.

Rafaela Sanchez is one of several residents who has aired her frustrations with CCISD after Alaniz's memorial was removed from outside of the former Cullen Middle School.

“Today’s headache was that they tore down a tree that was planted many years ago in honor of a veteran,” she said.

She said her heart became heavy watching the memorial for Army Specialist Alaniz being taken down.

“(I) don’t know what they did with the plaque. I asked questions but they gave me no answers," she said. "(I) called CCSID, haven’t gotten any returns. I worry about the family. They flags were surrounded by American Flags because people do come, and they do honor this young man."

In a statement sent to KRIS 6 News from Corpus Christi Independent School District, they said, Corpus Christi ISD has utmost respect for our military community and those who serve. We honor Army Spc. Andy Alaniz and the sacrifice he and his family made for our country.”

Sanchez said that she is upset that they took something so valuable and didn’t show any care for it.

“They brought in a bulldozer and just did it," she said. "That’s all that I could see, and I was really upset at the fact that they flags were on the ground. All the flags were gone also, and I thought, ‘how disrespectful are you to an American flag.”

CCISD said that, "the tree that was removed was done so to ensure proper drainage for the new school as a measure to protect taxpayers investment in this bond-funded project."

"It's important," she said. "He was a veteran. Honor him and they did not do that. What they did this morning was a very, very dishonor."

There is another memorial outside of the school that residents don’t want removed.

CCISD said at this time there in no plans to remove that memorial.

For the latest local news updatesclick here, or download the KRIS 6 News App.