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Memorial Day 2014 honors deceased veterans at Fort Bayard National Cemetery

Article and Photos by Mary Alice Murphy

Ray Davis, Allingham-Golding American Legion Post 18 commander, served as master of ceremonies for the Memorial Day event at the Fort Bayard National Cemetery. The call to colors was played by Richard Erwin Jr., as the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 358 Color Guard posted the colors.

Lorraine Anglin sang "The Star-Spangled Banner," and Bryant Jamison of the DAV Chapter 1 led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Shane Gabbert, Gaffney-Oglesby Marine Corps League Detachment 1328 chaplain, gave the invocation.

Davis and Gil Choquette of the American Legion explained the POW/MIA table. According to Davis, there are 83,000 who are still prisoners of war or missing in action.

The Welcome Address was given by Andrew Matthew, head of Fort Bliss and Fort Bayard cemeteries. He thanked those who give of their rime for various events at Fort Bayard.

"Our hearts go out to spouses, parents and families of those who in an instant lost their lives in service to country," Matthew said. "You have put them in our care and we take it seriously. We consider national cemeteries as national shrines."

He also gave an update on the construction project ongoing at the cemetery. "We will have a new public information center, which will have an interactive map, which you can print out to lead you to the graves of your loved ones."

"We have finished the curbing and sidewalks and are repairing the irrigation lines," Matthew said. "We will have new signage. The renovation has been planned since 2008, and is the largest since the cemetery's beginning in the 1860s. We are resurfacing roads. We see patient and courteous people here."

He explained that one concrete ditch in Section F has remained to carry storm water. "We will fix this structure, too. Everything is being done in concordance with state and local historic statutes."

"I've had questions about the status of increasing the land for the cemetery," Matthew said. "We will receive at least 20 up to 100 acres from the Bureau of Land Management and the state of New Mexico. The negotiations are in the final stages. If we receive 100 acres, it will extend the life of the cemetery for at least 200 to 300 years.

"God Bless our veterans and everyone here, especially the World War II veterans I see seated in the front row," Matthew led attendees in applause for them.

Davis announced an open house to be held immediately after the ceremony by the Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society at the historic Commander's Quarters.

Wreaths were then presented on behalf of various organizations. (See photos for details)

Dean Bearup of the Gaffney-Oglesby Marine Corps League Detachment 1328 read the list of those who had been buried at the cemetery since last Memorial Day. They included 40, who served in the Army, 10 Air Force, 20 Navy and 11 Marine Corps, for a total of 81, who served.

A 21-gun salute by the American Legion Honor Guard honored them. Jim Dines of the American Legion played Amazing Grace on bagpipes.

The featured speaker was Western New Mexico University President Joseph Shepard.

"It is an honor to be here," Shepard said. "I unfortunately did not serve in the armed forces. Fortunately I did not have to suffer the loss of a fellow soldier. Fortunately for me, I was born in a time of peace brought to me by those before me.

"Every time I read a criticism, I know it was because we have the freedom of speech," Shepard continued. "When we gather like this, it is because we have the freedom of assembly. If I go to the shooting range, it is because we have the right to bear arms. Every day, I get to celebrate my faith in the way I want. All these were given to me by those who served before me. We must honor those who have fallen.

"What really matters is not what's said about me or what's happening around us, we should all appreciate and thank the parent, the friend, the sibling of someone who died in service," he said. "War stays with us long after the war is over. Materiel from past wars still kills people.

"We remember the heroes," Shepard said, "but the forgotten heroes are those who are the families who will not see those who are gone. We should celebrate the families. I ask you to 1) quietly reflect on those who gave their lives for us; 2) give a hug to a family member of someone who is gone; and 3) stay civicly involved. This country is made up of communities like this one. A soldier who dies in war is typically 18-24 years old, the same age as my students. I'm asking youths to give your life to community service. Walk or ride for our fallen heroes. But remember the families and friends as they wait to join their loved ones in the hereafter."

Marco Grajeda, representing Sen. Tom Udall, read a letter from the senator, which reminded people to strive to be worthy of the sacrifice of the fallen.

Davis invited everyone to a luncheon at the VFW Hall in Arenas Valley.
Gabbert gave the benediction.

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