By Helena Rodriguez, PNT Staff Writer
Myrtie Smith has not missed a single Memorial Day program in Portales since her son, Lloyd E. Smith, was killed during the Vietnam War in 1967 at the age of 22.
“Lloyd was in the 173rd Airborne. They dropped out of a mountain and the Viet Kong were already there,” Smith said. “Memorial Day means a lot to me because we lost our boys. There were just two from Roosevelt County who were killed in the Vietnam War.”
Smith said all three of her sons were in the service, with Lloyd being the only one to be stationed out of the country.
“He was a good son. He was good to his country,” she said.
Forty years later, Smith wears a gold bracelet around her arm every day, a symbol of her support of troops currently stationed in Iraq, and also a symbol of those who have lost their lives in the Iraqi war.
“I’ve told my children that I’m going to wear this bracelet until the war is over,” Smith said. She said that the bracelet, which is engraved with the name of a soldier, was given to her by an organization that has started a fund drive to have an Iraq War memorial built in Washington, D.C.
Smith said she has seen her son’s name on the wall of a Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C.
Smith, along with Roosevelt County’s other Gold Star Mother, Lila Bryant, will be paid tribute on Monday during the 62nd annual Memorial Day program, which is being sponsored by the American Legion Carl McDermott Post 31 and its auxiliary.
Joe Blair, commander of American Legion Post 31, has not only been involved with the Portales Memorial Day program since 1946, but he lives Memorial Day almost every day.
“I keep a flag on the grave of my friend, Harold Ray Baker, 24/7, year ‘round,” said Blair, a World War II veteran. “We were both on an invasion of Guam in the South Pacific and I made it; he didn’t!”
Blair, who was 18 years old at the time, said Baker was also 18 when he was killed.
Blair explained the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day, noting that Memorial Day honors those who have died for this country.
According to the USMemorialDay.org Web site, Memorial Day is believed to have started during the Civil War and was originally called Decoration Day as a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service.
“Memorial Day is not like it used to be. It should be a day of reflection,” said Blair, who suggests that all people take time to view the Wall of Honors inside the Memorial Building and the Veterans’ Memorial outside.