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Events held to honor veterans


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Honor was felt for Roosevelt County veterans as two Portales events commemorated the sacrifices of our nation’s military members Friday for the Veterans Day holiday.

The American Legion Post 31 hosted its 70th annual Veterans Day program at the Memorial Building. Master Sgt. Chad Beach with Cannon Air Force Base was the guest speaker for the event.

Staff photo: Kurt Munz-Raper

From left, World War II veteran Joe Blair, Beverly Bryant, Vietnam War veteran 1st Sgt. Joe Bryant and Clovis High School Junior ROTC member Jaquelinne Saldivar stand to recognize Gold Star Mother Lila Bryant during the second annual Veterans of Foreign Wars Wall of Honor ceremony Friday night.

“I think as we look at that flag, we must remember again, if we take a look at those stripes, those stars, that field of blue, we’re reminded that freedom has come at a great cost, and we owe them (veterans) our respect and gratitude for those that served,” said Beach. “What we have today is a gift from you, and I appreciate that very much. May we go out today as we look upon that flag hanging across our town, may we remember those who have given us that freedom and what that symbol represents.”

Beach spoke about historical events, such as the Doolittle Raid in World War II, to highlight the circumstances veterans faced when entering the service.

“It was at this time of great trial for our nation that these men went out in courage and served and did something bold and courageous, and their acts inspired our nation at the time when we needed it most,” said Beach.

Portales residents Bobbie Victor and Johnny Wall, whose family members were in the Bataan Death March, were recognized along with the local veterans who attended.

“This is just a special event,” said Victor, whose father, Homer Buel Hobbs, was a prisoner of war and participant in the march. “We’re very proud of it. It’s admirable that it keeps going. I just wish a lot more young people were here and realize the freedom that they have.”

“It’s a great day, and it’s an honor to be here,” said Wall, whose father and uncles — John Wall, Lester Wall and Vernon Ginnings — were POWs. “It’s amazing that they still do this.”

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9515 hosted its second annual Wall of Honor ceremony later that day to recognize Roosevelt County veterans.

Portales Boy Scout Troop 18 and the Clovis High School Air Force ROTC helped with the ceremony.

“For me as a parent, it’s phenomenal for them (the troop) to get to see and hear about some of the heroes of that era,” said Assistant Scout Master Dan Sickles. “It gives them perspective about the forebears of our freedoms.”

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Karla Eaton was the guest speaker for the event.

“Every generation owes a debt of gratitude to these and all patriots of the past and present,” said Eaton. “Ladies and gentlemen, today our mighty flag waves high above and our hearts are full of patriotism and thanks. There is no greater nation on earth than the United States of America, and we owe such a debt that we can never repay to the generations that came before us.”

Seven veterans were recognized at the event: World War II veterans Pvt. William D. McGee, Sgt. John T. McGee, Capt. Warren M. Wright and Pvt. Durwood Wright, Korean War veteran Radar Seaman Cecil W. Cook, Vietnam War veterans Pfc. Jerry H. Bryant and 1st Sgt. Joe M. Bryant and Gold Star Mother Lila Bryant.

“It’s an honor that they’re doing this for our dad,” said Betty Price, the daughter of John T. McGee. “(We remember) the values that he taught us for our country, that we have the utmost respect for our soldiers and their sacrifices. They’re something to be admired.”

“It’s fantastic,” said her brother, Jim McGee. “It’s an honor. I’m most proud.”

Joe Bryant, one of the two surviving veterans who attended, along with Cecil Cook, said the ceremony showcased how much the military is respected compared to the disrespect during the Vietnam War.

“It’s an honor. It’s good to see that respect for the military has come back,” said Joe Bryant, whose brother Jerry was killed in action. “It makes you proud in your country to see it. It’s a great feeling. There are mixed emotions. My brother for instance — I wish my brother could have been here to see it.”

On being recognized, Cecil Cook said “it felt nice, very nice.”

“He (Cecil Cook) always gave us praise, and it’s time to give it back,” said Cecil Cook’s son, Jimmy. “He always gave us a strong backbone.”