American Legion to honor Bataan Death March survivors

Argen Duncan

For the 64th year in a row, the local American Legion is honoring those who have served with their annual Veterans Day service.

The event is open to the public.

American Legion Post 31 and Auxiliary Unit 31 make a special effort to honor the area’s two surviving Bataan Death March survivors and the widows of four men who survived the death march but died in more recent years, said American Legion post Commander Joe Blair.

Veterans Day focuses on living veterans, he said, while Memorial Day is for veterans who have died.

Blair said not only does the American Legion aim to honor veterans with the program, but the group also tries to teach younger people about veterans and their sacrifices.

“The more we can get out to the younger generation about veterans, the more we like it,” he said.

As a new feature this year, Blair said, Portales High School choir director Franklin Smith is bringing students to sing at the service.

Smith said he was bringing his music theory class of about 12 students to sing “Omnia Sol,” a song about a journey, growing up and having people who remain constant in one’s life.

“We always love the opportunity to perform for the community, and we really appreciate what the veterans have done for us and what the military continues to do for us, and this is one way to show that appreciation,” he said.

Blair said Lemon Dotson of Southside Church of Christ is the featured speaker Thursday. He invited Dotson to speak because the man has organized the church’s Veterans Day breakfast for several years and has a son who has served in Iraq.

Traditional features, including a poem about the American flag and a presentation of a table set to honor service members who were prisoners of war or missing in action, remain part of the program this year.

The American Legion started the Veterans Day service in 1946 and kept it going because the group thought it should be carried on, Blair said. They also provide an honor guard for funerals and give presentations at other events.

“We just do it because it’s an honor and a privilege to do it, and veterans, they deserve something,” Blair said.