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Crowd attends Memorial Day ceremony at Fort Bayard National Cemetery

More than 100 people attended the Memorial Day ceremony at Fort Bayard National Cemetery today, May 27.

Jack Cunningham and Jim Dines serenaded the audience on bagpipes before the event began at 10 a.m.

The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 358 Color Guard posted the colors.

Ray Davis, Allingham-Golding American Legion Post 18 commander, served as master of ceremonies.

Amber Joy Perry sang The Star-Spangled Banner, and Tom Meyer of Disabled American Veterans led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Davis explained the prisoner of war/missing in action ceremony, which features a table with a single plate, an inverted glass, a candle and a single rose. Gil Choquette, American Legion, sprinkled salt on the plate and lit the candle.

Shane Gabbert, chaplain, gave the invocation.

Jim Zawacki, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3347, introduced guests.

James Porter from Fort Bliss National Cemetery, which oversees the Fort Bayard National Cemetery, thanked Girl Scouts for handing out programs. "I also thank the staff here, for whom every day is Memorial Day at these hallowed grounds."

He gave an overview of the improvements being made at the cemetery. "We are doing an expansion within the grounds." Porter said a path and lighting would be at the flagpole and flag at the entrance to the cemetery. Near the entrance would become 250 in-ground cremation plots. Where the maintenance building is now is slated to be 750 crypts. A new information center will be constructed facing the flagpole. Inside will be maps and restrooms, as well as a touch screen where a person can type in a last name, and then choose the first name, at which point a map will be printed showing the location of the gravesite. A water tower and pump will irrigate the entire cemetery.  A new maintenance building will be constructed, as will a 552-niche columbarium. A new committal shelter will be built for funerals, near where everyone was sitting at the original shelter, which will be reserved for Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Wreaths Across America and other special events.  The entire property will receive new turf, and the project is slated to be completed by spring 2014, although Porter said the contractor said it may be done by the end of this year.

Veterans and members of the community, escorted by Knights of Columbus, 4th Degree, presented wreaths, which were received by Adan Rivera and Chuck Whitely of the American Legion Post 18.

Members of the Gaffney-Oglesby Marine Corps League Detachment 1328 recognized Gold Start Mothers, Mary Cowan, Kay Beem and Mary Lou Grijalva.

Dean Bearup, Gaffney-Oglesby Marine Corps League Detachment 1328, thanked those, including Girl Scouts, who made short work of placing flags on all the gravestones Friday morning. He then read the proclamation from Gov. Susana Martinez.

Melanie Goodman of U.S. Sen. Tom Udall's office and Jake Rollo of Sen. Martin Heinrich's office read statements from the senators.

Robert Lopez, Marine Corps League, read the roll call of veterans deceased and buried at Fort Bayard since May 2012.

Cunningham and Dines played "Amazing Grace."

Serina Pack, American Legion Post 18 Ladies Auxiliary member, gave the Memorial Day address. "I know who I am because of you. My life and my freedom are because of your sacrifice." She signed "Thank you for your voice," which she said symbolizes those voices no longer heard. The theme of her talk, which she signed, was "Let Us Not Forget."

Cunningham recited "In Flander's Field," written in 1915 during World War I.

The American Legion Post 18, Honor Guard, gave a gun salute to honor the deceased. Mickey Gomez played "Taps," and Benediction was "God Bless America," led by Amber Joy Perry. The colors were retired.

Photos by Mary Alice Murphy

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