American Veterans National Commander, William Boettcher, left, talks with New Mexico State Commander Mike “Doc” Tharpe before a meeting Tuesday at Post 14 in Clovis. Boettcher is the first AMVETS National Commander to visit. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth
By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
A celebratory mood permeated the American Veterans Post 14 on Wednesday afternoon as the 2004-2005 national commander, William Boettcher, made a historic visit.
“This is the biggest event of AMVETS New Mexico in the history of AMVETS New Mexico because this is the very first commander that has ever come to New Mexico,” said Michael Williams, 1st Vice Commander-elect of Post 14.
“I’m glad he came down to visit this post and see how we do things,” said Orie Potter, a former army engineer and AMVETS member.
Although those who assembled in Post 14 prior to the Commander’s speech shared drinks and laughter, the issues underlying the commander’s visit were quite serious.
“I like to bring members up to snuff on the federal budget,” said Boettcher, an Ohio native who is deeply concerned by lack of medical funding for veterans.
“We have veterans this year who will have no access to medical care. America made a promise to our veterans years and years ago — and I don’t think we are fulfilling that promise,” Boettcher said.
“When I see the way money is being spent in Congress — there is a $1 billion, four-year program for emergency health care for illegal immigrants — yet we can’t take care of every one of our veterans — that there is $100,000 research program for a groundhog — I’m very concerned about the message this sends to our all voluntary military. If they see how veterans are being treated, what kind of message does this send? How will we maintain the quality of the military if we can’t attract the young people necessary?”
Boettcher’s concerns are grave, but for the duration of his visit in New Mexico, he adopted the laid back style of the New Mexicans he encountered.
“I came here casually,” Boettcher said, referring to his khakis and polo shirt, “It speaks highly of the folks out here. I’ve had a enjoyable tour of New Mexico.”