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

All eras recognized on Memorial Day

 

May 29, 2019

Kevin Wilson

Retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Hector Baez speaks about the importance of Memorial Day and the people the day honors.

CLOVIS - For the last few decades, the various branches of the United States military have operated on voluntary enlistment. But even in the days of drafts, Hector Baez said, "There is always a way out for those committed to avoiding" military service and its risks.

That's why it was so important on Monday to recognize Frank Taylor and Harvie Winkles III, recent and not-so-recent additions to those killed in combat and honored since 1866 in what America now commonly knows as Memorial Day.

Baez, who retired from Cannon Air Force Base in 2010 as a chief master sergeant and the 27th Special Operations Mission Support Group superintendent, came from San Antonio to be the guest speaker for Monday's remembrance service at Lawn Haven Memorial Gardens.

With more than 1,200 American flags placed on the gravesites, Baez talked about what the holiday meant with the thoughts of Taylor. The U.S. Army National Guard major, on his fourth deployment, posted on Facebook about the beauty of Afghan residents voting in the first parliamentary elections in eight years and spoke to the upcoming U.S. midterm elections.

"As the USA gets ready to vote in our own election next week, I hope everybody back home exercises their right to vote," Baez read from the post. "And that whether the Republicans or the Democrats win, that we all remember that we have far more as Americans that unites us than divides us."

Less than a week later, Taylor was killed in an attack in Kabul. He left behind a wife, seven children and literally an entire community, as Baez explained Taylor was also the mayor of North Odgen, Utah.

"Maj. Taylor did not need to serve in the military," Baez said. "Like everybody serving in the global war on terror, he chose to serve in the military."

So too, did Harvie Winkles III of Texico. His mother, Rada Winkles, said Harvie signed up for military service as soon as he had the chance. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on Dec. 14, 1966, in Albuquerque, and was attached to a U.S. Marines unit when he arrived in Vietnam in July 1968.

During a Dec. 8, 1968, search and clear mission into an area known as "Dodge City," the platoon with Winkles ran into enemy troops with fortified bunkers. He was one of five men killed that day, and was later honored with the Navy Commendation Medal.

Rada has been to the last 50 of Clovis' ceremonies, most of them in nice weather like Monday's service but some in bad weather. No service has stood out from another, but all are special events in her mind.

"I think it's wonderful people take the time out to remember," she said, "but I don't need a separate day. I remember my son every day."

When asked what she remembered most about him, Rada said, "I just remember everything; he was a fun-loving guy."

Baez said Memorial Day shouldn't be thought of as an ending, but as the beginning of a commitment for every other American "to carry forward to repay a debt that can never truly be repaid," and to live up to the ideals military members died to protect.

While it may seem natural to mourn the loss of all of those in the flag-decorated gravesites, Baez said it should instead be celebrated that people like that lived.

"They, like the generations before them," Baez said, "gave up their todays for our tomorrows."

 
 

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