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2013 Veterans's Day celebrated at Fort Bayard National Cemetery

Article and photos by Mary Alice Murphy

Veterans' Day was celebrated with a large crowd attending the ceremony at the Fort Bayard National Cemetery. Allingham-Golding American Legion Post 18 hosted the event, with participation from American Legion Riders Capter 13, Silver/Bayard VFW Post 3347, Gaffney-Oglesby Marine Corps League Detachment 1328, Disabled Veterans of American Chapter 1, Western New Mexico University Veterans, VFW 3347 Ladies Auxiliary and American Legion Ladies Auxiliary.

Ray Davis served as master of ceremonies.

Richard "Cos" Erwin of the Marine Corps League played the call to colors on the bugle.

The posting of the colors was done by a combined Color Guard from the American Legion, Marine Corps League and VFW. Loraine Anglin sand the national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. Oralia Rede of the American Legion Auxiliary led the Pledge of Allegiance. James Knight Jr. also of the American Legion gave the invocation.

Davis explained the meaning of the various items on the small table set for one in honor of prisoners of war and those missing in action who are unable to participate in the ceremony. Gil Choquette of the American Legion stood alongside as honor guard for the table.

Jack Cunningham of the American Legion and Jim Dines played Amazing Grace on bagpipes.

Robert Lopez of the Marine Corps League introduced the Gold Star mothers in attendance, Kay Beeman, Maria Luisa Grijalva and Mary Cowan.

Jim Zawacki, VFW commander, read the proclamation from New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez.

Andrew Matthews, director of the Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso, Texas, and the Fort Bayard National Cemetery, gave the welcome address.

"This is the most tranquil, serene cemetery I've ever been in, with the mountains as a backdrop," Matthews said. "Most are in cities. This is just a beautiful place.

"I want to specifically mention the honor teams who bury the veterans who have died," he continued. "It's very moving to see the veterans giving of themselves."

He explained the construction that is going on at the cemetery. Matthews pointed out the columbarium for cremation urns. "The covers will be white marble, the same as the white marble used for headstones. It is another choice for your loved ones." He also said a new underground crypt section was being developed, which required drilling through granite. The graves will be double depth with drainage, and will save space in cemeteries that are filling up. He also said a new committal shelter had been constructed, and the one where today's ceremony was held would retain its rock walls, but the cracks would be repaired.

"At a new visitor center, visitors will be able to print out a map to the gravesite of a loved one," Matthews said. "We removed the concrete ditches and replaced them with underground drainage. The green ornamental fencing around the cemetery had been installed, and the roads will be resurfaced and sidewalks built. We want to make it more user-friendly for the visiting public."

He said it was in the works for the national cemetery to get 20 additional acres from the state of New Mexico. "Now it is about 18 acres and has been in use for about 150 years, so with another 20 acres, it will add another 150 years."

"May God bless all American veterans, especially those who are no longer with us," Matthews concluded.

The Hi Lo Silvers, women's singing group led by Valdeen Wooten, sang a salute to the military services, which members of each service standing as their song was sung.

Alan T. Martinez, New Mexico Department of Veterans Services deputy secretary, gave the Veterans' Day address.

"Thank you to all veterans and their families," Martinez said. "I have my freedom and I have you to thank for it."

He said the first celebration for veterans was Armistice Day at the end of World War I, the Great War and the War to End All Wars. "I think they were off a little bit.  Armistice was declared at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. "

President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared Veterans' Day to be celebrated each year on Nov. 11.

"We only live in a free country because of veterans who have served their country," Martinez said. "Never stop honoring them."

He said New Mexico has a higher percentage of veterans per capita than almost any other state, with many New Mexicans having fought in all the 20th century wars and conflicts.

"Veterans, you served and you continue to serve to put other before yourself," Martinez said.

He said people ask him how he gets everything done that he does with a small staff. "In New Mexico, we are all a small community pulling in the same direction. I'm proud every day that I work for you. Every day, I get to serve you is preparation for the next generation when my sons come back and serve them."

Davis introduced Lucy Whitmarsh of the  Jacob Bennett Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. He said the DAR was the first service organization formed to serve veterans and veterans' families.

Anglin, whose daughter is serving in Afghanistan, sang God Bless America, with the audience joining in. The colors were retired, and those present were invited to the VFW Post for lunch.

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