American Legion into its 66th year of hosting Memorial Day program

A crowd of about 40 residents attended a Memorial Day program Monday morning at the Portales Cemetery.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune

Lynnde Hall, left, and Taryn Kizer of Portales present the laying of the wreath in the Portales American Legion's Memorial Day program.

The Portales American Legion has hosted the program for 66 years to crowds large and small

Program speaker Col. Charles Myers said the holiday's intended purpose is to honor the nation's fallen heroes.

Organizers, and Myers, remarked during the event that recent years have seen a drop in attendance.

Myers, deputy commander of the 27th Special Operations Group of Cannon Air Force Base, has been stationed here since 1992. He began his address discussing the history behind Memorial Day and said through the years, people have forgotten its original meaning.

"Unfortunately, today we have a smaller crowd," Myers said to attendees. "There are fewer Americans today that have a direct connection to members of our armed forces."

Myers believes that even those who don't have or have had a relative or friend in the armed services doesn't mean that they shouldn't pay tribute to those heroes. He says the event goes beyond decorating graves with flags, and the respect should come from a place of appreciation.

"We need to ensure that we keep the memory of those who fight for our freedom," Myers told attendees.

Also, Myers said the general population confuses Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

"We need to keep that line clear," Myers said. "This is the day to honor our fallen."

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune

American Legion member Vivian Cato ends the Memorial Day Program playing a Memorial Day staple, "Taps."

The ceremony began with the posting of the colors as American Legion members raised the American flag high into the air.

Donald Paschke then sang the "Star-Spangled Banner." Program organizer Joe Blair said this was Paschke's 50th time singing the national anthem for this program.

Don Criss, Eastern New Mexico University's director of television production services, was asked by Blair to give a reading.

"It's so appropriate that we remember these people," Criss said about the holiday.

Criss went on to read a poem about a young man eager to fight for his country and a father, who receives an untimely letter of his son's passing while fighting for his country's freedom.

Portales American Legion member David Myers, no relation to Col. Myers, came out in support to honor those he fought with in Vietnam. He agreed that many ignore the meaning of the holiday, and admitted that it saddens him.

Taryn Kizer, 13 and Lynnde Hall, 11, presented a laying of the wreath to commemorate local heroes.

Hall, Blair's granddaughter, has been laying the wreath since she was 3 and said family taught her the meaning of the holiday.

"It feels good," Hall said, "and it's important to do it."

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