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Veterans' Day celebrated at Fort Bayard National Cemetery

A Veterans' Day ceremony was held at Fort Bayard National Cemetery on a chilly morning, Sunday, Nov. 11.

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

The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 328 Color Guard posted the colors. Davis led the participants in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Amber Perry sang the national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner."



Shane Gabbard of the Gaffney-Oglesby Marine Corps League Detachment gave the invocation.

Davis explained the significance of the small table to his left. The prisoner-of-war and missing-in-action table held symbols, such as the lemon slice for the bitter fate of the POWs and MIAs and salt for the countless family members and friends who wait the loved ones' return. A candle symbolizes hope, and the American flag reminds people that many may never return.

James Zawacki, Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter commander, read the Veterans' Day proclamation from New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

Lucy Whitmarsh of the Jacob Bennett Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution explained why the chapter was named after Bennett.

"He was one of the first veterans of the American Revolution," Whitmarsh said. "His descendants moved to New Mexico. Bennett Street in Silver City is named after Cornelius Bennett, who was a judge. His daughter formed our chapter in 1903. The Bennetts were an influential family, helping in bringing New Mexico to statehood.

"We represent and honor our first veterans and all veterans," Whitmarsh concluded.

Serina Pack gave the welcome address, a talk on the "Voices of Patriotism."

"Each of you has such a voice," she said. "Thursday, my grandfather, a Marine passed away. He is one more laid to rest in this sacred soil.

"We carry the voices of patriotism within us or you would not be here," she said. She signed "Thank you for your voice."

Sgt. Villagran recognized all veterans in attendance and the wars and conflicts in which they served. His introduction included a woman who lives at Fort Bayard Medical Center, as the first woman to go into the service from Grant County. She served as a parachute packer.

Dean Bearup of the Marine Corps League escorted the Gold Star Mother, Mary Cowan, to the front row of the seated dignitaries and gave her a dozen roses. Her son, Aaron Cowan, died in 2005, while on duty in Korea.

The Veterans' Day address was given by John Bourdette, an Army veteran.

"It is an honor to be here," Bourdette said. "I was a military brat. My father was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force in World War II and Korea. I went into the Army as a lieutenant straight out of ROTC. "

He warned that some might not like his talk, but he spoke on "Why we remember veterans."

"Military training changes us for the rest of our lives," Bourdette said. "When I recently needed to get in shape, how did I do it? By running in combat boots. Military training is to hopefully save lives."

The second reason is sacrifices, for the many that veterans have sacrificed. "The mission is why we live. We work in an authoritarian structure. And we are willing to give the ultimate sacrifice. We are willing to give our lives so the rest of the citizens can have their lives."

The third reason is because veterans have seen, done and experienced things that most people have never seen, done or experienced, "such as making a decision on who dies and who goes into surgery." Bourdette served in the Medical Corps. "I can still smell burned flesh, and I still have to live with what I saw and did."

The last reason is "because some of us have had to take human life. That goes against all our moral upbringing, and then we have to live with it. We justify them as the enemy, but that enemy is a human just like us."


"Remember all veterans of the past, today and the future," Bourdette said. "Today and the rest of your lives, remember veterans. Even though I am a recovering alcohol addict for 31 years, I would again put my life on the line to preserve the freedoms of this country."

Veteran Joe Marin read the list of area veterans who have died in the past 18 months, and are buried at Fort Bayard National Cemetery.

The American Legion Honor Guard fired a volley in honor of veterans.

Mickey Gomez, national cemetery burgler, played Taps. Jim Dines played "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.

Perry sang "God Bless America," while fighting tears.

Davis concluded the ceremony by wishing his fellow veterans "Happy Brothers' Day."

Photos by Mary Alice Murphy

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