San Jon dedicates veterans park

Russell Anglin

The Village of San Jon dedicated its Veterans Memorial Park Thursday with a ceremony honoring the men and women who have fought for the United States armed forces. Citizens and students of San Jon schools gathered to participate in the dedication.

The dedication began with a welcoming statement by San Jon Mayor Billie Joe Barnes.

“On this day, the entire nation is honoring those who have taken the solemn oath to protect and defend our wonderful country,” Barnes said.

The ceremony continued with Leo Pacheco and Ronald Stoner raising the U.S. flag, and Julie Bryant singing the national anthem. Mayor Pro Tem Leo Thrasher lead the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

San Jon High School seniors Chelsey Tillman and Bobby Benally read poems they had written for the ceremony.

“Everyone sees the red, the white and the blue, which stands for freedom, but what about the unseen colors?” Benally’s poem “The Unseen Colors” read. “Black represents our sorrow when our fellow soldiers fall at the mercy of keeping our freedom. Yellow shows the courage that our fellow soldiers sacrificed for us. Green represents a new day given to us in which the soldiers fought for our freedom. Brown reminds us of the grounds they have traveled for our country. Purple represents the bumps, the bruises, the pain given to keep me free. Finally, orange resembles the sunset that goes down every evening, letting me know that our country is safe. These are the unseen colors of the flag. God bless America.”

Written statements from U.S. Sen. Tom Udall and New Mexico State Rep. Dennis Roch were then read to the crowd.

“The men and women who defend our freedoms are the heartbeat of our communities,” Udall’s statement read. “We celebrate their victories. We mourn their losses. We work to support and sustain the families in their absence, and today as we honor military veterans past and present, we are reminded once again of the heroism and sacrifice that makes our armed forces the best in the world.”

The memorial park features a six-sided monument with bronze plates on each side. Five plates represent the branches of the U.S. military and one plate represents unity among the different branches. The monument is surrounded by flags representing the Navy, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, and Marines as well as the POW/MIA flag.

South of the monument, a weather vane adorned with an eagle represents the global presence of the U.S. military.

The park was designed by longtime San Jon resident and Army veteran Sgt. Jesse “Shorty” Reed. Reed served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne division and lost part of his right arm during the war.

“To me, I wanted to honor each branch of the service individually because they fight together as a whole but they are individuals,” Reed said.

Reed said the idea to build a park was former Mayor Fern White’s, and both Reed and Barnes said the park was a community effort. They said it took the village five years to raise the funds needed to establish the memorial.

“We’ve got 101 veterans buried out at the San Jon Cemetery. To me this honors them just as much as the living. We’ve got a lot of veterans buried and a lot of them still in the military,” Reed said.