Honoring those who served


On Memorial Day, the weekend winds subsided and a calm stillness settled across the county, feeling as though the land itself was paying silent homage to the nation’s fallen heros.

Veguita resident and Marine Corps veteran Victor Hale played his bagpipe for the fallen war heros, its lamenting melody drifting out across the flag dotted Terrace Grove Cemetery in Belen.

Ungelbah Daniel-Davila-News-Bulletin photo: Los Lunas High School JROTC students fold the flag that was then presented in the memory of Fidel Peralta, a veteran who died in Korea, during the Memorial Day ceremony at the War Heroes Memorial in Jarales.

Then, at 10:30 sharp, the VFW Memorial Day ceremony commenced with the raising of the flag by the color guards as members of Post 2387 stood at respectful attention.

Meanwhile, a few miles away in Jarales, others gathered at the War Heroes Memorial for another Memorial Day celebration. In addition to honoring fallen soldiers everywhere, the event was in memoriam of Lt. Gen. Leo Marquez, U.S. Air Force, who dedicated the memorial on Memorial Day in 1986.

The celebration opened with a prayer by Chaplain Eric Green, who prayed for the day, the veterans and that “we be aware just how blessed we are as a nation.”

The Los Lunas High School JROTC and their commander Major Mike Lloyd were on hand for the raising of the flag, led by Cadet Captain Alejandra Trujillo.

The JROTC students stood proudly at attention for the lowering of one flag and the rising of another — its fresh red and blue hues waving vibrantly against the cloudless sky to the “The Star Spangled Banner,” performed by the Valencia County Community Band.

Co-Master of Ceremonies Ruperto G. Baldonado then presented the flag in honor of his friend and fellow veteran Fidel Peralta.

“The flag that was presented today was the flag that was presented to my best buddy, Fidel Peralta,” said Baldonado.

He told the crowd how he and Peralta had grown up and gone to school together, and how Peralta was deployed to Korea first, where he died 26 days before Baldonado arrived.

“Thank you,” Baldonado said. “God bless Fidel, and God bless the U.S.A.”

Commander Jim Martinez then spoke of his pride in the county’s young people and the important contributions they are making before presenting JROTC Cadet Captain Trujillo with a medal and certificate of appreciation on behalf of the Disabled American Veterans.

Trujillo, a Los Lunas High School senior, said she was experiencing mixed emotions after receiving the honor.

“It’s really beautiful what he (Martinez) said,” Trujillo said. “It got me thinking about my future, what he said.”

As the ceremony progressed, emotions among the crowd and the speakers became stronger.

The band performed “God Bless America,” and Mike Silva performed a lovely saxophone solo of “America the Beautiful,” after which an emotional Co-Master of Ceremonies Philip Sublett speculated that there was probably “not a dry eye in the house.”

“I really want to recognize everyone, actually,” said Sublett. “Thank you for showing up and recognizing our fallen comrades.”

Sublett also recognized the veterans, old and recent, in the crowd, saying, “I see pride, in themselves, in their community, in their country.”

Betty Jones then took the stage in honor of her husband, Billy M. Jones, who is in the final stages of his battle with cancer. She said her husband served in the military for 32 years.

“He has a lot of spirit,” Jones said. “If he’d had just a little bit more strength, he’d be here.”

After the ceremony, refreshments were provided by Romero Funeral Home and the Don Jose Dolores Cordova Cultural Center, where emotions subsided a little as community members were able to visit and snack on hot dogs.

“My grandpa, Ruperto Baldonado, does this every year to honor the war heros,” said Noel Jaramillo, who was attending the event with her 2-year-old daughter, Addyson.

Kay Bommey, of Rio Communities, said she attended the event to remember her brother-in-law who was killed in France during D-Day, and to remember a nephew that they lost in Vietnam.

“This is probably the fourth or fifth time being here — just to honor the vets that died in action,” said Don Brumbaugh, retired airman from Las Maravillas.

-- Email the author at udavila@news-bulletin.com.