By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
Veterans’ Day is our way of honoring those who answered the call to serve, to fight for our rights and freedoms, and those who made the bravest sacrifice and did not return home, said Col. Timothy Paul, New Mexico National Guard Chief of Staff.
Paul was the guest speaker for Monday morning’s Veterans’ Day memorial ceremony at Tucumcari Memorial Park Cemetery, hosted by Tucumcari VFW Post 2528.
Paul said it is in human nature to have conflict and battle; it is not something that we want but is something that we cannot ignore. He said this nation stands for the ideal that all men are created equal and shall stand for those who cannot fight tyranny and bring freedom to those who are being oppressed.
“It is an honor to be here in Tucumcari, where so many brave men and women have served and continue to serve their country,” Paul said.
Paul said New Mexico’s residents have had a long, proud history of serving in the Armed Forces. He said the brave men of the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery, New Mexico National Guard unit had been sent to the Philippines to provide air defense for Clark Field.
The 200th, 515th Coast Artillery and Filipino defenders fought for four months until they had to retreat into the Bataan Peninsula. On April 9, 1942, the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery, along with the rest of the Bataan defenders, began the march to prison camps known as the Bataan Death March. They would then be interned for more than three years.
Paul said Quay County was the home to many who had survived the Bataan Death March. He said those men suffered horrible atrocities in defense of our liberties and freedom.
One of two remaining Bataan Death March survivors Melvin C. Waltmon died on Oct. 29. Alfred A. Haws currently resides in Logan.
Ron Wilmot, regional representative for U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), read a letter from Lujan.
“Today, our nation will join together to honor the brave service of the men and women who have worn our nation’s uniform and who have sacrificed in order to uphold the values that make America great,” Lujan’s letter said.
Lujan said the sons and daughters of New Mexico bravely served when their country needed them most. He said New Mexicans are proud of the long tradition of service and the many contributions New Mexicans have made through military service.
“From the Navajo Code Talkers and the soldiers who endured the Bataan Death March in World War II, to Medal of Honor recipients Leroy Petry and Hiroshi Miyamura, their stories of heroism are inspiring,” Lujan said. “For all those whose stories may not be as well-known, but whose service will never be forgotten.”
Lujan said honoring these heroes is just one service we must provide for military veterans returning home. He said we must also thank them in deeds. Veterans deserve the benefits they have been promised — from health care to education — as well as the opportunity to succeed when their service has concluded.
“Just as these heroes have answered the call of duty, so must we, as a community and a country, answer the call to care for them when they return home,” Lujan said.
Lujan said too many veterans struggle to find work when their military service ends despite the excellent training and leadership qualities they possess. He said Americans must work together so that when the country welcomes home the men and women who have protected the nation’s freedoms, they are welcoming home the entrepreneurs and small-business owners who will be leaders in our community.
More than 90 people attended the American Legion Post 77 Veterans Day dinner and appreciation program Saturday in Logan. The dinner and program were free and was held to honor local Veterans and women currently serving in the military.
The Tucumcari chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution hosted an appreciation breakfast on Saturday for veterans and active-duty service personnel, and a ceremony honoring veterans and men and women currently serving in the armed forces on Sunday.