By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer
The “Battle Hymn of the Republic” ends, and two gray-haired men hold flags high and present the colors with dignity.
So began the American Legion’s tribute to veterans Tuesday morning at the Memorial Building. A survivor of the Bataan Death March, the nephew of a survivor and the widows of four survivors were special guests.
“I just thought it was beautiful and very impressive,” said Irene Wall, widow of Bataan Death March survivor John H. Wall, of the ceremony.
Zane Gushwa, whose husband fought in World War II, said she enjoyed the event.
“I had four brothers in the service, and I’ve always had a big heart for veterans,” she said.
After the presentation of the colors, the Rev. Clyde Davis of First Presbyterian Church gave the invocation.
“Among the freedoms so generously and jealously guarded by veterans is the freedom of religion,” Davis said.
The 62nd annual event also featured several other speakers, including:
• Diane C. Ventura, field representative for Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., who said the country must honor veterans and provide the healthcare and education they were promised.
• American Legion Post 31 Commander Joe Blair, who honored prisoners of war and personnel missing in action. People who serve know the “sweetness of peace has always been tainted by the bitterness of personal sacrifice,” he said.
“May God forever watch over them and protect them and their families,” Blair said of the missing and imprisoned.
• Col. James L. Cardoso, commander of the 27th Special Operations Group at Cannon Air Force Base, who called attention to Bataan Death March survivor Irvin Butler and to Blair, a World War II U.S. Navy veteran.
“Without question, these gentlemen proved their mettle as true American heroes,” Cardoso said.
He went on to say American military personnel are neither a Hollywood creation nor a special warrior caste, but Americans doing their duty. With the world more dangerous now, a new generation is stepping up to protect the nation’s principles, according to Cardoso.
Veterans Day history:
• Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day.
• President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I. The Allies and Germany signed the armistice for peace at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
• Congress made Armistice Day a federal holiday in 1938.
• In 1952, the holiday was changed to Veterans Day to honor people who fought in other wars.
(Source: City of Portales Veterans Day Proclamation)