Cities prepare to salute returning troops

Gary Mitchell

One of the best reasons to be stationed at Cannon Air Force Base might be typified by what’s taking place June 21 in Clovis, Air Force officials say.
“Our airmen feel very honored to live in this part of the country in America — that the local communities would want to throw a party like this,” said Lt. Col. Ken “Easy” Rizer, 522nd Fighter Squadron operations officer. “It’s not like that at a lot of other bases.”
The Clovis-Portales communities, in conjunction with Cannon, are hosting “A Homecoming Celebration: A Salute to Our Troops” from 1 to 7 p.m. June 21 at Greene Acres Park.
“We’re in the process of finalizing the details for a huge homecoming celebration to honor our troops,” said Ernie Kos, executive director for the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce.
“We’ve fine-tuned some stuff for that afternoon, thanks to help from both chambers of commerce, the cities of Clovis and Portales and the base,” said Mike McDaniel, chairman of the Committee of Fifty, who is helping to orchestrate the event. “We’ll begin with a Patriotic Parade at 1 p.m., starting from Grand Avenue up Main Street to Greene Acres Park. We plan to have a flyby during the parade.”
Between 2 and 2:30 p.m., welcomes by Clovis Mayor David Lansford, Col. Robert “Rowdy” Yates and Miss New Mexico will be delivered, followed by the presentation of colors, a second flyby and a Missing in Action ceremony, McDaniel said.
“We wanted to do a welcome home for the troops who were gone, but also a celebration for the troops and families who were here, who stayed behind,” he said. “It’s a community-wide celebration — Portales is involved, along with Melrose and Muleshoe, Texico, Farwell and Grady — it’s all of us, whoever can come.”
Plenty of festivities are planned for the afternoon and evening, Kos said.
“At the park, we’ll play hard,” she said. “There will be all kinds of games, live entertainment and plenty of food. I’m excited about the two F-16 flybys and the POW/MIA ceremony. It’s a very moving ceremony — it will highlight the day.”
McDaniel said the event has come together because of people’s desire to help.
“People have just jumped in to help whenever it’s mentioned,” he said. “They’re not just willing — they have suggestions or they volunteer to do something. We’ve had a lot of good support.”
Rizer said he has been impressed with what’s been done so far.
“It’s a joint effort between the community and the base, but it’s more the local communities putting this on as a salute to the troops, to welcome everybody back and a tribute to a job well done,” he said. “It’s coming along nicely. Not everyone will be home yet. There will be maybe a couple of hundred still deployed, but the vast majority will be home. Everyone’s excited — it’s going to be a great event.”