Officials speak at final ceremony before wall moves on

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Clovis High School AFJROTC cadet Ryan Telles-Hinch presents arms at Tuesday afternoon’s closing ceremony for the American Veterans Traveling Tribute at the Clovis High School campus.

By Sarah Meyer: CNJ staff writer

Each of several speakers during Tuesday’s final ceremony of the American Veterans Traveling Tribute at Clovis High School commented on the importance of the exhibit, but one Vietnam veteran found special significance.

Richard “Rick” Thomas of Clovis, who flew with the Air Force Security Service during Vietnam, said he had been in Washington, D.C., but for 25 years was unable to approach the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

“I was able to in Clovis, with the help of friends,” he said, sitting in a wheelchair near the traveling Wall, sheltered from the northeast wind that whipped the flags above him. “I think it’s real wonderful coming to Clovis and the rest of America.”

Steven Gamble, president of Eastern New Mexico University, said, “Everyone thinks of someone when they think of the Wall.”

He thinks of his four classmates who didn’t come back, and he said it’s important to remember the men and women who fought the war.

“Vietnam should remind us the people whose names are on this wall, and those who fought in other wars, are heroes,” Gamble said. “We never seem to give our veterans enough. One way to remember them is with the Wall.”

Clovis Community College President John Neibling said, “No one who lived through that era will forget the sacrifices made. … We can continue to enjoy the freedoms for which they paid the ultimate price.”

During the ceremony, Skip Overdeer presented Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield with gold dog tags in recognition of her brother-in-law, Richard L. Brumfield. Born in 1948, he went to Vietnam on May 4, 1969, and received mortal wounds on May 28, 1969. He received several awards for his bravery.

Brumfield said her husband was unable to visit the Wall. “He just can’t,” she said.

Don Allen, CEO of the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, estimated 30,000 or more people had visited the Wall during its five-day stop in Clovis. He said people came from throughout New Mexico, from Texas and from Oklahoma.

“People come out to celebrate freedom, and to honor, respect and remember those represented by the names and numbers on this wall,” he said.

The Wall was disassembled Tuesday evening and headed to Georgetown, Texas, this morning, Allen said. The Wall will come to New Mexico again later this year, visiting San Felipe Pueblo between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.