American Legion Post 18 hosted Veterans’ Day ceremony 111122

David Morrison, Allingham-Golding American Legion Post 18, commander, served as master of ceremonies.

He noted Post 18 was chartered in 1919, as one of the first 10 posts in New Mexico.

“Yesterday, I attended a ceremony at San Lorenzo Elementary School,” Morrison said. “They put on a Veterans’ Day ceremony. About 100 students presented a beautiful token to our veterans.”

He read “What is a Veteran?” “A veteran is a person who fell in love with his country…and was willing to lay down his life for it. A veteran does what he must in spite of personal consequences. A veteran gets a lump in his or her throat when he or she sees our beloved flag. He serves his country honorably. He is well deserving of our love 24 hours a day.”

Roger Wright of the American Legion Riders, Chapter 13, led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Robert and Danna Lopez presented the POW-MIA table traditional ceremony.

Keana Huerta sang The National Anthem, first verse, followed by the Hi Lo Silvers singing the fourth verse.

The Hi Lo Silvers, under the director on Valdeen Wooton, sang the Military Service medley, inviting each veteran to stand when his branch song was sung.

Melanie Goodman, field representative for U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, read a message from the senator. “Today is a special day and it is my privilege to honor and thank veterans. … I honor the bravery and valor of New Mexicans who served and their sacrifices. Often, they came home to serve again as volunteers and as first responders. It is our responsibility to make sure they have the resources they need.”

New Mexico District 38 Rep. Rebecca Dow served as the featured speaker. “I have had the privilege to serve as your state representative for the past six years, and this is my last official speech as your representative,” she said through tears, explaining that she lives in T or C, and District 38, which was redistricted, cut Grant County out. Luis Terrazas now serves Grant County.

“I honor our veterans,” she continued, as she explained it’s only for veterans’ speeches that she has to write it out. “My grandfather and my great-uncle were in World War II. My father-in-law and my brother are veterans. My nephew is on active duty right now. It is an honor to me, and I’m so grateful that I was raised in a family that understands the value of a strong military. I truly believe that America has a destiny and duty to preserve freedom and liberty around the world. We are the beacon of hope. We are the city on the hill. It is my privilege to serve you, who protect my liberty. We are gathered today to honor our veterans. It is your sacrifice that keeps our country safe and free.”

She said it is veterans that made the American dream possible, a dream that is unique to each person. “I heard a lot of my great-uncle’s stories about World War II. He said he was confused, as he saw so many of his fellow soldiers die. It immensely impacted him. He was not a Christian at the time, but he said he cried out to God that he would do anything for Him if he got home. He told me the miracle of God’s voice was directing him every moment—told him where to duck, where to aim and fire. And he returned home, married, started a family and served as a minister for more than 50 years. And his dream became telling others that God is with them in the darkest hours of their lives.”

“I have a friend, who was 20 years old when he was in charge of a $20 million helicopter and the lives of five crewmen,” Dow continued. “He was thrust into a controversial war and maybe some of you were, too. During his time spent in Vietnam, he fell in love with the Asian people. He has served 39 years as a missionary in Asian countries, including Vietnam. He has opened hundreds of schools, orphanages and churches. His American dream was to bring hope and healing to people around the world.”

She said her brother, who was not her biological brother, but her family took him in when he was 15 years old. “I got lots of dark texts from him when the U.S. left Afghanistan. He texted me last week and said: ‘I felt like an orphan, but your family took me in, and your mother treated me like a son. I want to make sure you know that you made it possible for me to return and lead a healthy life as part of your family.'”

“And that is what this is here,” Dow said. “You are a family. Right here in Silver City, you have so many young veterans. Jason Quimby served in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. I asked him yesterday what his American dream is. He is happy he can spend holidays at home instead of 7500 miles away. His American dream is to raise his family and not to put them in any situation where they are not safe. He said he left his ‘invisible scars’ in the war zone. Yet, he continues to serve his country, his community and his family. Not everybody comes home. This year we can honor some of those who passed. But say thank you to the families who are active, because in my opinion, they are in service to country as well.”

She said she couldn’t give a speech without honoring one of the veterans “we recently lost, Sir Dan McBride. His humorous storytelling engaged younger generations. He drove over the Black Range – it was while knuckle, very scary—and spoke to a teen group of kids. And these kids never took their eyes off him. He had them fully engaged the entire time. The stories, we’ve all heard a 100 times, were new to them. He has given me, and you have given me a very healthy appreciation for those who serve.”

Through more tears, she said it was truly an honor to be “here among you and to say thank you. We are at a pivotal point in our republic’s 246 years. You fought for this freedom. And right now, freedom, liberty and even pursuit of happiness are up for grabs. So, I appreciate your service and your continuing service in your community here. Thank you for letting me celebrate with you today.”

The Post 18 Auxiliary honored Dow naming her a member of this auxiliary, as she continues to serve her community in the Elephant Butte American Legion Auxiliary.

Morrison announced that the Legion had banners for anyone who served in Vietnam, Southwest Asia or received a purple heart.

The guest speaker was John Sterle, hardly a guest, as he is past commander of the post.

Sterle said the theme of the day was “honor,” as he was ordered by Master Gunnery Sgt. Dean Bearup. Sterle led off with definitions of honor as a noun and as a verb. “I want to zero in on honoring our country and veterans. Every day we honor someone. Your presence here today is to honor veterans and their families. I was the first Sterle in our military. I, from the time I was a child, had an insatiable desire to serve my country. What happened inside of me to catch the patriotic bug? I can’t remember not wanting to be in the military. I served in the Navy. I spend three months off Havana. We monitored Castro’s communications. We found out about the Russia plan to build in Cuba. We were 12 miles off Havana when President John F. Kennedy announced the blockade. Everyone had such a pride to do what we needed to do.”

He said from his service, “I have come to realize how wonderful it is to be born into this country.”

Sterle listed names of those members of the veteran community, including Dan McBride, Leonard Pritikin, Bill Harrison, Eugene Lewis, Roger Wright, Gilbert Abeyta, Tom Berry, Tim Maxon, Carl Eliason, Ray Davis, Frank Donohue, Robert Lopez and a bunch of others [whose names this author didn’t catch]. “You don’t know all of them, but for me they are part of who I am today. World War II veterans, Vietnam combatants, Gulf War veterans, Cold War veterans, fellow communications operations interceptors, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and USS Liberty survivors. To all the veterans I didn’t name, to all the shipmates, I can’t forget, I hope you will find my efforts honorable.”

The Hi Lo Silvers led the audience in “God Bless America.”

District 39 Rep. Luis Terrazas also spoke briefly thanking the veterans. “We appreciate you; we thank you. We must honor and respect each other.”

Frank Donohue, Post 18 chaplain, gave the benediction.

The ceremony was followed by a lasagna lunch made and served by the American Legion post members, American Legion Riders and Auxilians.

This article originally appeared in the Grant County Beat