A Cannon Air Force Base senior master sergeant told a Memorial Day audience Monday that the day is a time to honor those who gave their lives to make America a better nation and to remember that freedom isn’t free.
Lora D. Aples, superintendent of the deployment and distribution flight at Cannon, gave the keynote speech at the American Legion 65th annual Memorial Day Program at Portales Cemetery.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy also held their annual Memorial Day ceremony at the cemetery.
Gold Star mother Myrtie Smith, whose son Lloyd was killed in Vietnam, said the American Legion program was wonderful.
“This brings it all back,” she said.
Program attendee Sharon Tinsley said the turnout was sad and more Portales residents should come to the service. Still, organizer Joe Blair said he appreciated the people who attended.
“It just makes all the hard work putting everything together worthwhile,” he said.
At the UDC program, organization President Janelle Foster spoke about Elizabeth Camp Glover, a Confederate widow whose efforts sparked large reunions of Confederate soldiers. She also spoke of her own work to locate the graves of Confederate veterans who lived in Roosevelt County so their ancestors could visit them.
UDC member Jan Ross read the names of the 26 Confederate soldiers buried in Portales Cemetery.
During the American Legion program, Donald Paschke sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” for the 50th year, and Smith and Lila Bryant, whose son also died in Vietnam, were honored.
“Memorial Day is a bittersweet day as we pause to reflect on our shared stories and those who have given their lives in service to their country,” Aples said during her speech.
Aples said Memorial Day began in 1868 as “Decoration Day,” when flowers were left on the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers. She quoted an article saying gatherings in various communities probably led to the proclamation of Decoration Day.
Aples said some people today don’t relate to the occasion.
“Maybe their parents or grandparents failed to tell them of the sacrifices of many great Americans for all Americans,” she said.
Aples said the connection Americans share is that all are free because of the airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who served.
“These warriors were the fathers and husbands who willingly left their families and put their lives on the line for all Americans,” she said, adding they were also women who stood for freedom.
Since last Memorial Day, Aples said, 543 American military personnel have died for their country. She called them “some of America’s finest warriors and patriots.”
“I am very proud to follow in the footsteps of my fallen comrades by serving in my nation’s armed forces,” Aples said.
She said she was proud to be an American because of the people who served before her, those who serve with her and those who will come after her.