Residents pay their respects

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Joseph and Sarah Maleski search for a gold tag that is engraved with the name of Airman 1st Class Eric M. Barnes on Saturday afternoon at the American Veterans Traveling Tribute. Barnes was killed June 10, 2007, in Iraq.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

The haunting notes of “Amazing Graze” groaned out of a bagpipe as Capt. Mae-li Allison of the 27th special Operations Wing at Cannon Air Force Base read the names of more than 40 soldiers from New Mexico who died in Iraq.

Moments before, 27th SOW Wing Commander Col. Tim Leahy spoke to a crowd of about 100 people about the importance of remembering the men and women who died while serving their country.

“Liberty is not free, freedom does not come without sacrifice, and sacrifice should not be taken for granted,” he said.

Leahy spoke during a midday ceremony for the traveling memorial, which arrived in Clovis on Thursday and will stay until Tuesday.

Eddy and Teresa Gomez of Clovis strolled through the displays trying to find the names of friends who had died in the Vietnam War.

When Teresa Gomez found the name of Daniel Martinez, a family friend, she etched his name on a piece of paper.

She was also looking for Martinez’ cousin, who died a year later.

“They were both 21 (when they died),” she said.

A veteran of the Vietnam War, Eddy Gomez searched the wall for his two friends.

Eddy said he joined the Air Force when he was drafted, while his two friends enlisted in other branches. One friend, Mike Ybarra, enlisted in the Marines.

“We told him not to but he did,” said Eddy, his voice trailing off.

The couple brought their granddaughters, whose father is serving in Iraq.

Eddy said he explained to them what the wall’s significance was.

“It brings to them an awareness of what American citizens have done for them to have what they have,” he said.

Later in the day, more than 100 people participated in a candlelight vigil, walking in a procession along the wall, which contains 58,256 names.

The procession continued on to the Cost of Freedom Memorial, a series of display cases that contained gold dog tags with the names of soldiers who have fallen in later conflicts such as Desert Storm and operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

About 20,000 people have visited the wall since it arrived in Clovis on Thursday, according to American Veterans Traveling Tribute CEO Don Allen. The estimate was gathered from registration and merchandise sales.

“It tells us that we don’t live in a CNN world,” said Allen referring to the bad news that comes out of news programs. “This is America.”

The display is open 24 hours a day.

Schedule
The American Veterans Traveling Tribute will be at Clovis High School today through Tuesday. It is open 24 hours a day.
Today
2:30 p.m. — Motorcycle ride to the Traveling Wall from High Plains Harley-Davidson.
3 p.m. — Non-denominational church ceremony with keynote speaker Rev. Frank Sherman, Buffalo Soldier Ira Pottard in attendance.
Monday

10 a.m. — Ceremony adding 38 gold dog tags to the Global War on Terror display.
2 p.m. — Ceremony, gold dog tags presentation: Three men from Clovis who died in the line of duty will be honored. The tribute will honor: Sgt. Ruben Rubio – Army, died July 6, 1971 in the Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam. Sgt. Robert Kassin – Army, died July 16, 2006 in Afghanistan and Sgt. Leroy Segura, Jr. – Army, died August 4, 2006 in Iraq. Mike Hankins memorial will give tribute to JR Segura and Gold Dog Tags will be presented to Gold Star Mothers.

Tuesday
2 p.m. — Ceremony: Keynote speakers Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega, Eastern New Mexico University President Steven Gamble, Clovis Community College President John Neibling