Memorial Day at Fort Bayard Cemetery 2017

The Memorial Day ceremony began at 10 a.m. Monday, May 29, 2017, at the Fort Bayard National Cemetery, hosted by the Gaffney-Oglesby Marine Corps League Detachment 1328.

Well over 100 people attended the event on a sunny early summer morning.


Brian Gorog led off the ceremony with the playing of To the Colors. The Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 358 Color Guard posted the colors.

Megan Gorog sang The Star-Spangled banner, joined in on the first verse with audience members. The second verse was all her lovely voice.

Col. Bill Trotter, US Army, retired, led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Detachment 1328 past commandant Robert Lopez gave the invocation.

The Hi Lo Silvers, led by Valdeen Wooton, sang “This Land is Your Land.”

The wreath presentation led off with a Marine Corps League representative presenting a wreath. Members of the Knights of Columbus #2242, escorted each wreath bearer, who handed the wreath to Marc MacDonald of the Marine Corps League to place it.

World War II Veteran Leonard Pritikin, 97, read “In Flanders Field.”

The Hi Lo Silvers sang “Armed Forces Salute,” featuring the song representing each branch of the Armed Services. Some in the audience stood and saluted; others waved their hands or canes.

Pritikin and fellow World War II veteran Dan McBride introduced the Gold Star mothers.

McBride then presented a short talk on what Memorial Day means to him. He said he served as a paratrooper throughout all of World War II, was discharged in 1945, went back into the service in 1948 and retired after two years. “After more than 100 jumps, I was forced to quit.”

Because he was part of the D-Day invasion, flying over the fleet as it approached the coast, he and 118 fellow paratroopers landed in Normandy. At the end of the war, nine of them remained. “I buried my last buddy on January 9 of this year.

He recounted how, as a boy, growing up in Ohio, near Lake Erie, his family would celebrate what was then called Decoration Day. “In 1931, the lead unit of the parade was a new Model A, full of veterans from the Spanish-American War. The American Legion and VFW families went to the beach. My dad looked sad. I asked him why and he told me: ‘Thousands fought and died to protect us. It was 15 years ago. The war to end all wars, so you guys don’t have to do it again.’ I asked him if he was afraid. He said: ‘Of course, but you get through it.'”

In September of 1942, “I was 1,500 feet over Fort Benning, Ga. The guy said: ‘Go,’ so I did. What surprised me was how hard a soft silk parachute was when it expanded.”

“On Sept. 4, 1943, we went overseas,” McBride continued. “The Army gave me an all-expense paid tour of Europe.”

He said on D-Day when the planes were flying toward Normandy, “I saw the most amazing thing. The invasion fleet looked like it had every ship in the world in it.”

“I landed in Normandy and go shot up,” he said. “Next we went to Holland. It made me proud to be an American. In the meantime, we were losing more and more men. Next was Belgium then Germany and Berchtesgarden. On May 6, there were nine of us left.”

McBride says he tried to remember the good and forget the bad, but it’s hard.

“The most useful thing I had was my steel helmet,” he said. “I could dig with it, bathe in it, shave in it, cook in it and when I was in a foxhole and couldn’t leave, in an emergency, it was my latrine.”

On Christmas Day, 1944, he was in Bastogne. “We visited a bunch of the wounded. It was 10 below zero and the water everywhere was frozen. The wounded were complaining they had nothing to drink. Across the street was a bar, with the front bashed in. I went inside, found a keg, turned the handle and beer came out. I filled my helmet with beer and took it back to the wounded. I went back and filled it up and a major saw me and asked me what I was doing, I told him I was taking beer to the wounded. The major told me to put my helmet on, so I did and poured beer all over myself. After the war, a brewery in Bastogne started making a beer and called it Airborne to recognize the paratroopers. The logo is a GI with a helmet full of beer.”

Don Luhrsen, American Legion, presented the symbolism of the items on the P.O.W.-M.I.A. table, on which the glass is turned over because the missing comrade cannot drink. The chair is empty representing his absence. The slice of lemon is the bitterness of being a prisoner, with salt representing the tears. A candle represents the families waiting for the return of their loved ones.

New Mexico District 38 Rep. Rebecca Dow was the guest speaker. “I stand before you a proud American and yet the humble daughter of this great republic, forged by courage hundreds of years ago and maintained by the high cost of lives we remember today. America is living proof that equality in men and women can be more than just words on paper.”

“On this Memorial Day weekend, we gather to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice here and abroad to promote and secure life, liberty, freedom and justice for all.

“Today a Gold Star mother will embrace the death notification, remembering it as if it were yesterday, the ringing of the doorbell and the face of the captain who delivered the dreaded news,” Dow continued. “Found in the pockets of those who died are tokens of what they were fighting for. Photos of family, a locket of their sweetheart’s hair, a photo of the business they would buy when they returned home, a patch from their fallen buddy’s uniform. Over 1 million American heroes have died for their country while serving in wars from the American Revolution to the current war on terrorism. It is for these heroes we gather today. Unlike past wars the war on terrorism will not end with the surrender treaty. The rules are undefined, yet our enemies’ intentions are clear—they want us dead.

Today in their honor I challenge you to dream a little bigger, hug your children a little tighter, kiss your sweetheart a little longer. Tonight say a prayer of protection for those protecting us. Say a prayer of comfort for those remembering a loved one who paid the ultimate sacrifice. And remember the words of Samuel Adams ‘A general desolation of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America then the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous, they cannot be subdued. If virtue and knowledge are diffused among the people, they will not be enslaved. This will be their great security.’ If we continue to remember who we come from the path ahead for America will remain clear.”

Dow read from II Corinthians 16:13 “Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.”

She concluded: “May our heavenly father continue to bless the United States of America.”

Joseph Trujillo, Veterans Administration Cemetery representative at Fort Bayard National Cemetery, read the names of the 66 service members who have died and been buried at Fort Bayard since last Memorial Day.

The Hi Lo Silvers sang “God Bless America,” followed by Lopez giving the benediction.

Brian Gorog played “Amazing Grace,” followed by a firing volley by the Marine Corps Detachment. Gorog played Taps and Don Spann echoed Taps.

The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 358 retired the colors.