The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Region says it's #Cannonstrong

The movement follows Tuesday's training accident.


March 19, 2017

Courtesy photo

firefighters Trevor Autrey and Matt Dawson are among those supporting the Air Force base through the #Cannonstrong project.

Samantha Lewis could never fully thank the Cannon Air Force Base community for its support after her husband died in a training accident two years ago.

But she can always pay it forward, and she's found hundreds of helpers.

A simple hashtag, #Cannonstrong, has taken over local social media and is showing what a few people, a small sign and word of mouth can accomplish.

The movement comes in the wake of a Tuesday night training flight accident that killed all three Cannon personnel aboard - 1st Lt. Frederick "Drew" Dellecker, Capt. Kenneth Dalga and Capt. Andrew Becker of Cannon's 318th Special Operations Squadron.

Most social media posts honoring the airmen include a photo with a sign containing the hashtag, and people can add their own supportive comments if desired.

Lewis went through Clovis on Friday and Portales on Saturday asking if she could post photos with the sign at businesses, and many private citizens have followed suit on their own. Most people asked are willing to take part, Lewis said, and most of the people who declined mainly object to being photographed in general.

The idea started when a friend of Lewis' made a Facebook post with a smattering of innocuous hashtags. One of them was #Cannonstrong. Over breakfast, the two realized that hashtag could be a wider message. The friend had a husband in base leadership, so Lewis went to a craft store to build a durable sign while her friend made sure higher-ups wouldn't give a thumbs-down.

Call it a thumbs up and a thank you from Cannon. Eric Pilgrim of the base's public affairs office said that while Cannon can't do legwork growing the message, it's a message base officials support.

"For someone like Samantha and other people in the Clovis and Portales communities to reach out to us ... means a tremendous amount right now for a lot of people," Pilgrim said. "We've already felt it. We've taken note of it. It means a lot to people."

Lewis' husband, Staff Sgt. Jordan Lewis, died May 12, 2015, after a utility vehicle overturned during a training exercise at Melrose Air Force Range. His passing left Samantha to raise their 6-year-old daughter and 8-week-old son.

The grieving process never stops throwing curveballs, and Lewis said there's no shortage of tough days. But the Cannon community has helped her in countless ways, such as organizing a cheering section for her daughter's grade-school promotion ceremony and crowdfunding an account to pay for the children's future summer camps, dance lessons and sports activities.

Jordan Lewis would often decline asking for military discounts at local stores because he didn't want credit for work he felt needed to be done. In the same way, Samantha Lewis wants #Cannonstrong to be about her as little as possible - even as she's inextricably linked to it.

The driving factor is something she learned over the last two years - whether civilian or military, any family that experiences death always needs support and compassion.

"I wanted this movement to be that," Lewis said. "I wanted it to be a showing of solidarity, support and compassion for the families."

Monday vigil

A community-wide candlelight vigil is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday in front of the Curry County Courthouse.

The vigil is to honor 1st Lt. Frederick "Drew" Dellecker, Capt. Kenneth Dalga and Capt. Andrew Becker of Cannon Air Force Base's 318th Special Operations Squadron. The community is encouraged to bring flags and banners or signs promoting the #Cannonstrong campaign, according to a news release form the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce.

Information: 575-763-3435 or


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