Quay County is planning a hefty salute – or two – for Veterans Day on Friday.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 2528, and Ladies Auxiliary will be hosting an 11 a.m. memorial event at Tucumcari’s Veterans Park on Third and Main, according to a release from the organization. The release said the event will include an unveiling of a Korean and Vietnam memorial and a commemorative wreath placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution at a memorial recognizing veterans from the American Revolution to the present.
Guest speakers will include New Mexico State Representative Brian Moore and State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons with proclamations presented by Tucumcari Mayor Mary Mayfield and Albert Trujillo of the New Mexico Veterans’ Services, the release said, with the Veterans of Foreign Wars serving as honor guards.
Friday’s evening event will kick off at 7 p.m. at the Tucumcari High School auditorium where the middle school and high school bands and choirs will perform the annual Veterans’ Day program, according to information from THS.
Freedom newspapers, too, has been compiling profiles of veterans, specifically from WWII. Two of the profiles appear below.
Melvin C. Waltman
Date of birth: Oct. 6, 1917
Dates of service: March 15, 1941, to May 22, 1946
Lives in: Logan
Theater and location of service: South Pacific: Philippines
Rank: Master sergeant
Unit and specialty: 200th Coastal Artillery; Non-commissioned officer, regimental supply sergeant
In his own words: Waltman spent three and half years as a prisoner of the Japanese in the Philippines and Japan, surviving the Bataan Death March in which prisoners were forced to walk approximately 65 miles.
“We were made to understand right at first that we didn’t cross them. At first it was really dangerous — if you crossed them in anyway they just killed you. We tried our best when they were looking to do what they told us.”
Escaping wasn’t a thought for Waltman. There had been some that tried, however, “every one of those boys they recaptured and tortured and killed.”
It was safer to stay in the camp and tolerate the brutality he said. “At least we had something to eat in there. We were on an island and we stuck out like sore thumbs, there was nowhere to go. I tried to stay away (from the guards) as much as possible.”
He said the prisoners stuck together.
“We learned (camaraderie). We got together after the work day was over and we talked. They let us celebrate Christmas a little bit, we had a little bit of a program put on by chaplains that some of us got to go to. We had to find some bit of happiness in there by talking and being together.”
Oscar C. Witt
Date of birth: June 19, 1919
Dates of service: Jan. 15, 1940 to Sept. 15, 1945
Lives in: Logan
Hometown: Vancouver, Wash.
Theater and location of service: Mediterranean, Italy
Branch: Army Air Corps
Unit and specialty: 15th Air Force 464 bomb group 55th bomb wing 831st, B-24 and B-29 mechanic
After discharge: Fort Lewis, Wash.
In his own words: Nine days after he entered the service, Witt recalls hearing President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech declaring war. Serving as an aircraft mechanic stationed approximately 200 miles from the front lines in Italy, Witt said his duties were relatively routine and that there wasn’t a lot of pressure.
He worked on B-24 and B-29 bombers.
On one occasion Witt remembers: “I saw a B-24 blow up on take off on a mission; no man got out alive.”
Many of the planes were damaged from battle when they arrived, he said.
“We had aircraft that was shot up come in to land, one of them blew up on the hard stand,” Witt tells, recalling that the next morning they found five 500-pound bombs lying where the plane had been.
Witt, who left the service, received seven Battle Stars and two unit citations.
-World War II profiles are compiled by Freedom Newspapers staff writer Sharna Johnson. Contact her at 763-6991 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Veterans Day events
What: Veterans Day memorial event
Who: Veterans of Foreign Wars, Ladies Auxiliary, Daughters of the American Revolution and guest speakers
When: 11 a.m. on Friday
Where: Tucumcari Veterans Park, corner of Third and Main.
What: annual Veterans Day program
Who: Tucumcari High School and Middle School bands and choirs
When: 7 p.m. on Friday
Where: Tucumcari High School auditorium