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

Vietnam vets honored after 50 years

Marine: 'A welcome home is always heartfelt'


March 17, 2018

Tony Bullocks

Constance Williams of Clovis sings the National Anthem at Friday's 50th commemoration of the Vietnam War.

CLOVIS - Dozens of Vietnam veterans and their families gathered at American Legion Post 25 on Friday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.

The event stems from a presidential proclamation by Barack Obama in 2012 establishing a 13-year period to honor those who took part in the conflict in southeast Asia from 1955 to 1977 in accordance with its 50th anniversary.

At Friday's ceremony, Vietnam veterans or their family members received commemorative pins and certificates of appreciation thanking them for their service and sacrifice to the country.

Many of the veterans expressed similar sentiments that the recognition was long overdue.

"Finally getting recognized after 50 years, after they spit on us and everything else, treat us like trash you know, it's nice to finally get recognized after so many years," said Joe Gallegos, a member of the U.S. Army who served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969.

American Legion Post 25 Commander Tom Creehan said he saw the mistreatment of veterans firsthand so he enjoyed the chance to see a wrong become righted.

"Even those of us that did not serve in-country got spat on, got called baby killer or whatever when they went through the airports, so to see them get this recognition, especially some of the older guys who I know they suffered be it mental anguish or whatever," Creehan said.

Creehan also said he was thankful that so many elected officials were in attendance including Clovis Mayor David Lansford, Clovis City Commissioners Helen Casaus, Rube Render and Mayor Pro Tem Juan Garza, Sens. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, and Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, and state Rep. Randal Crowder, R-Clovis.

Render served in the Marines from 1960 to 1980. He saw the commemoration as a way for the veterans to gain some closure.

"I think that a welcome home is always heartfelt and means a lot to people who came back," Render said. "It's better late than never."

Casaus, whose husband was drafted straight out of high school in 1967, appreciated the chance to honor the veterans, along with their family members.

"To me I was very grateful," Casaus said. "I didn't think I was going to get so emotional but it was very emotional I thought because they do suffer; veterans do suffer."

New Mexico Department of Veterans Services Cabinet Secretary Jack Fox said he could see on the faces of the men and women as they picked up their certificates how appreciative they were to have the moment of recognition, even if it came decades later than it should have.

"If you could see the eyes of some of these men, some of these guys it's the first time they've ever been really thanked and they deserve it," Fox said.

When he addressed the crowd Fox relayed some statistics about New Mexico's participation in Vietnam. He said of the 58,200 who died in combat, 398 were from New Mexico and 12 New Mexicans are among the 1,600 soldiers still missing in action.

Fox also wanted to stress that the veterans in attendance at Friday's ceremony were not defeated militarily.

"There's a perception in the media that we lost in Vietnam," Fox said. "We did not lose; you who wore the uniform did not lose, you won. It was the will of the American people who lost."


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