By Tony Parra
Many Portales residents spent their time on Thursday with their right hand over the left part of their chest staring at the American flag during ceremonies honoring United States veterans on Veteran’s Day.
Veteran’s Day activities took place to commemorate the veterans who have served in the United States armed forces. The American Legion held their commemoration on Thursday morning in the Memorial Building, while the Native American Affairs office representatives of Eastern New Mexico University held a commemoration at noon on the campus of ENMU.
Joe Blair of the American Legion recognized a few of the attendants to the Veteran’s Day memorial. Blair recognized three men who have received Purple Heart awards — Alvin Fails, I.R. Butler and Homer Hobbs. He also took the time to recognize widows of those who marched in the Bataan Death March.
Col. John Posner of Cannon Air Force Base spoke about the sacrifices veterans made for Americans freedoms. Posner said he was originally from the Washington D.C. area.
“I’m humbled to be here,” Posner said. “I have never been to a ceremony more meaningful. There is nothing better than small town America.”
The event was sponsored by American Legion Post 31 and the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 31.
Blair spoke about two other veterans who were in the audience, Capt. Preston Dunn and Lt. David Gurning. According to Blair, Dunn was a marine pilot who flew 66 missions in the Philippines and received nine air medals and three Distinguished Flying Crosses. Gurning flew 59 missions over Europe and received 11 air medals and one Distinguished Flying Cross.
Don Paschke sung the National Anthem for the 15th time at a Veteran’s Memorial and has sung 41 years for the Memorial Day program.
Utahna Livingston, Director of Native American Affairs office for ENMU, said the group’s afternoon memorial was in remembrance of the veterans and of the Navajo code talkers. Livingston also performed a jingle dress dance in honor of the veterans during the noon ceremony.
Sgt. Randy Burgess, a marine for 10 years who served in Iraq, Somalia and Israel, gave a speech in remembrance of veterans and those who are serving in the middle east now. Burgess told the public veterans are responsible for our freedom through a poem.
“Veterans gave us the freedom of religion, not preachers,” Burgess said. “Veterans gave us freedom of the press not reporters. They gave us freedom of speech, not poets. They gave us freedomto assemble, not campus organizers. Veterans gave us the freedom to a trail, not lawyers. They gave us the right to vote, not politicians.”
Dwan Martinez, former Miss Native American at ENMU, sang the national anthem in Navajo. The spectators braved the brisk winds on Thursday and gathered around the Native Connections band members from Clovis, who sang Navajo songs.
Monica Herrera of Portales brought her friend’s four-year-old grandaughter, Miko Valdez, to both ceremonies. Herrera was teary-eyed during the presentation sponsored by the American Legion. Herrera said she has a nephew in Annapolis at the United States Naval Academy.
“The ceremony (in the memorial building) was incredible,” Herrera said. “It made me aware of military families and what they have to go through. My prayers are with them.”
Herrera said she enjoyed the pow-wow, Navajo music and other activities at the Native American memorial at ENMU.