By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
Veterans want members of the Portales community to celebrate Memorial Day and help remember those who gave their lives for Americans’ freedoms.
The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9515 will each conduct activities during the weekend in commemoration of those who served in the military.
The American Legion will hold its 59th Annual Memorial Day Service at 10:30 a.m. on Memorial Day at the American flag pole at the Portales Cemetery. Guest speakers will be Rev. Farrell Odom and Col. John Posner, commander of the 27th Fighter Wing at Cannon Air Force Base.
Special guests for the ceremonies will be Lila Bryant and Myrtie Smith. Joe Blair, commander of the American Legion Post 31, said both Bryant and Smith lost their sons in the Vietnam War. Blair said ceremonies are held each year at the Portales Cemetery for Memorial Day and ceremonies are held each year at the Memorial Building for Veteran’s Day.
“Many people get confused about the holidays,” Blair said. “Memorial Day is to honor the deceased veterans of all wars and Veterans’ Day is to honor the living veterans of the wars.”
The first-known memorial days originated in Greece 2,500 years ago, according to the Memorial Day Web site. People used to decorate the graves of the communities’ heroes.
Memorial days in the United States originated after the Civil War. Women in Columbus, Miss. placed flowers on the graves of the dead soldiers in April of 1863. It was five years later when May 30, 1968 was designated as Memorial Day.
Blair admits there are so many memorable moments from previous Memorial Days in Portales, and that the holiday in itself means a lot to him.
Blair went into the Navy while his friend, Harold Ray Baker, went into the Marines.
“We went in on the invasion of Guam,” Blair said. “I came back, but he didn’t. I personally make sure there is a flag on his grave site, 24 hours a day, 365 days out of the year.”
On Saturday, Portales veterans will be placing flags on the grave sites of those who served in the military.
Military veterans will be out at the Portales City Cemetery at 9 a.m. on Saturday, placing flags on the grave sites of those who served in the military. They are encouraging those who want to remember military personnel to come to the cemetery to help place flags.
Post 9515 Commander Tim Marsh said they can help the veterans place the flags or grab flags from the veterans so family members can place the flags on the grave sites of their loved ones.
“The day is not just for the veterans,” Marsh said. “Many family members visit the sites of loved ones who didn’t serve in the military.”
Kevin Robbins of Post 9515 said tables will be placed at both entrances of the cemetery. Marsh said veterans will be sitting behind the tables and giving out flags to family members if a site was missed. For information, contact Tim Marsh at 760-4195.