Group raising funds for war memorial

Alisa Boswell

Another project for the Portales Town Square is currently in the fundraising process, needing $20,000 to be accomplished.

The project is the construction of a 3 1/2 foot tall and 15 foot long war memorial on the southeast corner of the town square, which will list the names of Roosevelt County veterans killed in action.

Portales resident Larry Smith, chairman of the Roosevelt County War Memorial Committee, said the idea was formulated at the class of 1958 Portales High School 50th reunion in 2008.

“We had decided we’d try to do something for the community, then a group of people brought up how little high school students know about the roles locals have played in war and in the (Bataan) Death March,” Smith said. “Our idea was to raise some money among our class members then turn the project over to the county.” To date they have 98 names of area war casualties.

Smith said the $2,500 left over from the class reunion was donated along with other funds from various class members, totaling more than $8,000. He said the project also has $2,000 in pledges from local organizations.

“Because we’re just now getting publicized with this, we’ve had very little reaction to it, but the reaction we have had has been very positive and the county commission was very enthusiastic,” Smith said. “I anticipate the people of the county will look forward to the project and remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice.” Smith said the committee hopes to raise the other $12,000 by Nov. 11 and will have a booth at the Roosevelt County Fair that will give information and accept donations.

Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce Director Karl Terry and Smith said it is the hope of the county and the project committee to help bring knowledge and history to the county’s younger generations of the roles local residents played in times of war and during the Bataan Death March, which occurred during World War II.

“My generation had a close enough connection that we knew about the Bataan Death March, but now, we have a generation that’s very disconnected,” Terry said. “Roosevelt County residents don’t take lightly their citizenship and they know what people have sacrificed and they want younger generations to know as well and to pass along those traditions of honoring veterans.”

Smith said as part of the project, the committee is trying to collect short stories of what local families experienced in times of war to share with Portales High School students to pique the younger generation’s interest in history.

He said anyone wanting to contribute stories or more names to the memorial can contact the chamber of commerce.

“I feel like residents will step up and make this a reality,” Terry said. “The cross-section of people working on it is pretty impressive.”