Courtesy photo: Joe Blair Don Paschke sings “The Star Spangled Banner” at a past American Legion Veterans Day ceremony in Portales, while other dignitaries listen. The event is occurring for the 63rd time this year.
By Argen Duncan: Freedom New Mexico
“…The land of the free and the home of the brave.”
The 63rd annual Portales Veterans Day ceremony next Wednesday features a speech by Cannon Air Force Base wing commander Col. Stephen A. Clark, as well as Donald Paschke of Portales singing the National Anthem for the 45th year.
“Veterans Day is to honor veterans and veterans’ families and the service they did for their country,” said Joe Blair, American Legion Post 31 commander and event organizer.
“A Tribute to Veterans” aims to do just that.
Traditionally, part of the ceremony recognizes local Bataan Death March survivors and their widows. This year, Blair, a World War II veteran, expects survivors Irvin Butler and Alvin Fails as well as four or five widows of other Bataan survivors to attend.
Blair’s daughter Judy Hall and her second- through fourth-grade students from Farwell will present the Bataan survivors and widows with mementos, as her classes have every year for the past decade. Hall, president of the American Legion Auxiliary, said the students are making blankets this year.
The children will also hand out tissue paper poppies made by disabled, hospitalized veterans, she said.
The students learn about veterans and do related activities for at least two weeks before the ceremony.
“I just want to be sure they cherish our veterans and understand why they’re free today,” Hall said.
The Portales Veterans Day ceremony has taken place each year since 1946. Blair said the American Legion is committed to it and the effort is a privilege.
“Veterans organizations are duty- and honor-bound to recognize living veterans,” he said.
Veterans Day recognizes living veterans, and Memorial Day honors veterans who have died, Blair said.