Residents honor fallen soldiers

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

Portales residents remembered the fallen Monday.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the local American Legion post held separate Memorial Day ceremonies at the Portales Cemetery.

The UDC ceremony began with the dedication of a headstone for Confederate veteran George W. Wood.

“We are grateful for the records of the past which bring inspiration and courage,” said UDC member Jan Ross during the dedication. “We are appreciative of the lessons taught by memorials to events and deeds of long ago. We pray that our lives may be always patterned to give our devotion and service as did our forefathers.”

UDC member Janelle Foster said Wood was born in Arkansas in 1840, enlisted in the Confederate infantry in Houston in 1862 and was living in Portales with his family by 1903. UDC members are almost certain he is buried between his wife and son in Portales Cemetery, although they were not able to find records of his death, Foster said.

After the dedication, attendees honored the 26 Confederate veterans buried in the cemetery and heard about the Sons of Confederate Veterans 1st Texas Brigade, who provided an honor guard, from Commander Rick Uhlig.

Later, during the American Legion ceremony, Chief Master Sgt. William W. Turner of Cannon Air Force Base challenged listeners to show by action that they understood what military members had died for and to stand for those ideals. He said personnel in all military branches continue to serve.

“They defend the freedom Americans cherish so intensely. … The freedoms we enjoy as Americans have been secured by the blood of the military service member,” Turner said.

Even as people gather to remember lives lost, he continued, the fighting continues and will bring more losses. As long as man walks the Earth, conflict will happen, Turner said, and American service members will be called to those places.

“We serve for those who cannot serve,” he said. “We fight for those who cannot fight … We do these things not for glory, but for the ever-righteous cause of freedom.”

The program also included a tribute to Portales’ Gold Star Mothers, Myrtie Smith and Lila Bryant, who both lost sons in the Vietnam War.

“These Gold Star Mothers have made the ultimate sacrifice for human freedom,” said local American Legion Auxiliary President Judy Hall.

These mothers understand the nation’s freedom is not to be taken for granted, she added.

After the program, Smith said the service was wonderful and, in fact, the best ever. The importance of Memorial Day, she said, is “to honor our soldier boys.”