By Sarah Meyer, Freedom New Mexico
A retired U.S. Navy officer hopes to compile a list of all veterans within a five-county area of eastern New Mexico to recognize and keep track of the people who have served their country in that region.
Richard Robertson, a retired chief petty officer who now serves as director of the Retiree Activities Program at Cannon Air Force Base, said he believes the list is needed for two reasons.
First, the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services doesn’t know how many veterans are here, he said.
“I think they ought to have a little better handle on things about veterans because that’s all they’re supposed to do,” Robertson said.
In addition, Robertson said military veterans should get more acknowledgment for their service.
“If they hadn’t fought the Revolutionary War, World War I or World War II, we might be speaking German or Russian instead of speaking English and being able to say what we want, when we want, and how we want,” Robertson said.
John Fondrick, service officer for the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services, said there are various reasons why the office doesn’t know how many veterans are in a given county at any one time.
Even the federal Veterans Affairs may not know the exact whereabouts of a veteran, Fondrick said. For example, a veteran receiving benefits may move from Texas to New Mexico, but still have his benefit check deposited in a Texas bank, he said.
“I think (a list) would be a good idea, as long as it’s not abused,” said Fondrick. “We could be able to get in contact with them.”
However, Fondrick said he does have concerns about the Privacy Act.
Vernon Luce, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Carnine-Wiseman Post 3280 in Clovis, said he supports Robertson’s efforts.
“I think it’s a great idea so all veterans will get the benefits they’re entitled to,” Luce said. “And the state will know who they are and what they did.”
Luce said he plans to work with Robertson by researching VFW Post 3280’s information to “get him started.”
The department of Veterans Services is working on its own database, Fondrick said, but only has names of people who come into one of the 17 field offices in the state, seeking assistance for benefits.
“We assist veterans with state and federal benefits,” said Fondrick. “We can speak VA.”
Robertson said he wants to compile a list of veterans in Curry, Roosevelt, Quay, Guadalupe and De Baca counties and share his list with Veterans Services.
“We can never say it (the list) is complete,” he said. “Every day, we’re getting more veterans.”
Names of veterans in any of the five eastern New Mexico counties, along with dates of service, military branch and war service, can be sent to Robertson at Building 600, Suite 1024, Cannon Air Force Base, NM 88103.
The Clovis office of the N.M. Dept. of Veterans Services can be reached at (505)-762-6185.