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

By David Stevens

Opinion: They did what they had to do


October 17, 2018

Clovis’ Harold Gilman never really planned to put his life on the line for the American way of life. Neither did his dad. But looking back over the past 80 years, you’d be hard pressed to find a New Mexico family that gave more for the freedoms we enjoy today.

“My dad (also Harold Gilman) was waiting for the draft. He wasn’t in any hurry to join,” his son said. That was around World War II.

Gilman himself was just looking for a job when he joined the National Guard in the late 1960s.

“I was working for the railroad and a lack of business led to a reduction in force,” he said. “I was walking around with nothing to do and a friend of mine asked if I wanted a job. We drove from Belen to Albuquerque ... I thought they were hiring employees; but they were signing us up for National Guard duty.”

Gilman said he knew he was signing up for four months of training, and then he was expecting to go back to work for the railroad, which he did.

“And then they called up the Guard,” he said. “So I went to Vietnam.”

Gilman said he spent about a year in Vietnam, in 1968-69, where his job was to load weapons into supersonic fighter jets.

His base was attacked three times, and he spent time in foxholes with an M16.

Once he found himself under attack with a weapon but no ammunition.

“I guess you could say I did a little country thinking,” he said. “I buried myself in the sand with my rifle. I camouflaged myself. I could see them little bastards (Viet Cong) running around, but I had no way to shoot at them.”

His dad had even more frightening stories from the war.

Harold Gilman Sr. was captured in the Philippines and became a prisoner following the Bataan Death March.

“He said people were starving. The food they ate, they were lucky if it had grub worms in it for their protein,” Harold Jr. reported.

Harold’s dad at one point was placed in charge of the barracks where he lived with other prisoners. If any of his fellow prisoners escaped, Gilman Sr. was told, he would be executed.

“One day my dad let 12 prisoners escape. He figured he’d be shot. But instead of executing him, they put him in solitary confinement. He sat in a cell that was so small he couldn’t lay down.”

Two other Gilman family members also fought in World War II.

Earl Gilman joined the Navy in 1937. He died in a Japanese prison camp.

Paul Gilman joined the Marines in 1942. He was killed in a machine gun battle with Japanese on the small island of Betio in the Pacific Theater, where he was buried at the time.

Today is a good day to remember the Gilman family because Paul is coming home.

The website reported that Paul Gilman’s remains have recently been confirmed via DNA testing. His body is scheduled to be returned to his home town of Belen for burial next to his brother Earl on Oct. 26.

Harold Gilman Jr., 71, who moved to Clovis with the railroad in 1974, is hesitant to talk about the sacrifice his family has made over these generations.

“I feel proud of my entire family,” he said. “I feel proud of what they did. I feel proud of what I did, where I served.”

But he doesn’t think they’ve done anything special.

“I guess we were patriotic, but we weren’t really gung-ho about the military,” he said. “It’s just what you do living in a free nation. You do what you have to do. You are called to protect, you protect.”

Thank you all for that service.

David Stevens is editor for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:


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