“God Bless America.”
The words to that song sustained the soldiers of the New Mexico National Guard’s 200th Coast Artillery through the Battle of Bataan and the horrors that followed, said author New Mexico Dorothy Cave Aldrich, who spoke Tuesday at Eastern New Mexico University’s Veterans Day observance.
Aldrich, author of “Beyond Courage: One Regiment Against Japan 1941-1945” and other books, said she didn’t write the book. “Eighteen hundred New Mexicans … wrote it in blood. I wrote it in ink,” she said.
She said she interviewed 120 veterans for the book, and she still cannot understand what it must be like to starve, to be beaten and brutalized, to live in filth while fighting for one’s country and for freedom.
Other countries cannot understand the American spirit or the spirit of America’s military men and women, she said.
“We have more to fight for than any country in the world,” Aldrich said. “The citizen soldier has saved America war after war after war, and they’re still doing it. They are free men standing between us and the war’s desolation.”
“We need to remember it’s the soldier who gives us freedom of the press — not the editor, the soldier who gives us freedom of speech, the soldier who gives us freedom of religion,” she continued. “They need to be thanked.”
She also said Americans need to take inspiration from the men and women who fight to protect our freedom.
“We should honor our veterans every day,” Aldrich said.
At the end of the Veterans Day observance, the audience and guests were invited to view the Wall of Honor in the basement of the Campus Union Building.
More than 200 veterans’ nameplates were added to the wall Tuesday, said Esthela Banuelos, advisor for Nontraditional Student Educational Services, which sponsored the Veterans Day event.
The Wall of Honor was dedicated one year ago for veterans who attended ENMU for one semester or longer, Banuelos said. More than 300 names now are featured, and more display cases need to be built to house the nameplates.
Most of the names now going up are from older veterans, Banuelos said, but soon the names will be from younger people now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.