By Karl Terry
It was a good Veterans Day weekend for Mick Hoffman.
The Air Force veteran and former Eastern New Mexico University student saw his name added to ENMU’s Wall of Honor at the Campus Union Building. But as nice as that was, he said it wasn’t the highlight of the weekend.
Hoffman said he attended Sunday’s Veterans Day program at the VFW and was there when James Elementary School students gave a program.
“The students sang a song, ‘Welcome Back,’” Hoffman said. “That was the first time in 35 years anyone has said that to me. I got all choked up.”
Hoffman, who served in the latter part of the Vietnam War, said he remembers coming back from Vietnam in the early 1970s and landing at the Oakland, Calif., airport. He said war protesters yelled and spit at them as they deplaned.
Benjamin Shumate, a non-traditional student at ENMU and a veteran of service in Iraq, gave the address at ENMU’s Veterans Day ceremony Monday and reminded those attending that the average age of those serving in Iraq is 30 and the average age of the dead from Iraq is the same age.
“No matter what you might think about this war, our men and women are out there and we should support them,” Shumate said. “We’re all living through this war that is making new veterans every day.”
Shumate urged the crowd to support the troops overseas in any way possible, including writing to those serving overseas.
He said he remembered watching war movies and television shows and laughing about how excited everyone became at mail call.
“All those letters became very important to me when I was in Iraq,” Shumate said. “It was a direct line to a better place and time.”
Combat photographer and former ENMU student Jim Spiri, who gave a program Monday night on his recent work as an embedded journalist in Iraq, also addressed the crowd.
“The raising of the colors today was nice,” Spiri said. “When you’re overseas and in a war zone you don’t take it (color guard ceremony) lightly anymore.”