By Casey Peacock, PNT Staff Writer
A respectful silence fell over the crowd as members of the American Legion Post 31 raised the American flag to half mast in honor of those who have given the utmost sacrifice for the United States.
The raising of the flag was a small part of the 61st Memorial Day program held at the Portales Cemetery and hosted by the American Legion Post to honor fallen veterans and their families.
“I think we had a good turnout. I think everybody enjoyed it,” said post commander Joe Blair.
Guest speaker Col. Mark J. LaRose, commander 27th Maintenance Group, 27th Fighter Wing, Cannon Air Force Base, spoke of what Memorial Day means, not what most Americans actually see the day for.
“It’s more than a day off, it’s a time to honor those who have died and made the ultimate sacrifice,” LaRose said.
LaRose went on to speak of past wars and the blood that has been shed by soldiers in order for the country to remain as it is today. Something he feels that many today take for granted, he said.
“Memorial Day is a scarred day of remembrance for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” LaRose said.
At the closing of his speech, LaRose turned to Blair and assured him that this generation of soldiers were standing guard to assure that no one would take the flag from past and future generations.
During the ceremony, Gold Star Mothers, Lila Bryant and Mytrice Smith were honored for the ultimate sacrifice. Both of the women lost sons in the Vietnam War.
“It’s always a privilege for us to have our two Gold star Mothers here. It’s (honoring the women) something that should be done and we will continue to do,” Blair said.
For the past 15 years, Don Criss has read the poem Flanders Field. The poem was written during World War I and has special meaning for Blair, whose brother fought in WW I and left many friends behind when he returned home, Blair said.
For Marine veteran Travis Foster, the ceremony is a time of reflection. Foster is one of seven brothers who served in the military. Of those seven, one brother died in France a few months after D Day, he said.
Reserve veteran Milz Bickley was also in attendance at the ceremony. Even though he did not see any action, he had family members that served in World War II.The ceremony is a way for him to help honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, he said.
“I want to thank and honor those who have sacrificed,” Bickley said.
Another attendee who has a long family history in the military was Mary Ann South. She has attended the ceremony for the past several years as a way to honor those who have died for their country. She feels that it is important that those who have made the ultimate sacrifice continue to be honored for this, she said.
“ I think that in the country we have kind of forgot. I think we need to be reminded,” South said.