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Roswell celebrates Veterans Day despite weather

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Lowell Hughes, 99, and a World War II veteran, sits in his Ford Mustang in front of the Chaves County Courthouse Saturday ahead of the Veteran’s Day Parade. (Alex Ross Photo)

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Cold temperatures did not keep the crowds away or dampen patriotic fervor Saturday, as people lined the flag-bedecked streets in downtown Roswell for this year’s Veterans Day Parade and celebration.

The New Mexico Youth ChalleNGe Academy Corp. Cadets unfurl an American flag Saturday morning at the intersection of Fifth and Main streets before the Veterans Day Parade. (Alex Ross Photo)

At 7 a.m. with a layer of frost still visible on the grass outside the Chaves County Courthouse, people began to show up in coats and cocooned in blankets to observe and in some cases, take part in the parade.

“Dear Lord, bless this day, bless Veterans Day and bless — God bless America,” Mark Rowland, chaplain for American Legion Post 28 said in a prayer to the crowd during a ceremony before the parade.

The program included the Pledge of Allegiance said by members of Girl Scout Troop 18044, and a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, sung by Tom Blake.

Names of local residents who died in World War I were read aloud, while wreaths were laid to honor those who served in the U.S. Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines. Wreaths were also laid for prisoners of war and military members who went missing in action, as well as one for military members wounded in action.

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Taps were played and doves were later released, signaling the start of the parade that went from Fourth and Main streets, before peeling left on 19th Street and ending at Stepp Field at the New Mexico Military Institute.

A total of about 30 entries were in the parade that ranged from vehicles from the New Mexico National Guard, to vehicles, to groups of people marching, to antique tractors and floats.

Veterans Day, which officially falls on Nov. 11, is meant to honor those who have served and are living but also those who died in service to our country, Rowland said before the ceremony.

When veterans come together, they remember their time in service, something that is hard for someone who has not served.

“They don’t have the experience and there is nothing that relates to military service in the civilian world, nothing that even comes close,” Rowland said.

This year marked the first time Post 28 led the effort to organize the parade and ceremony that has become an annual tradition in Roswell.

For 17 years, Rita Kane-Doerhoefer spearheaded the efforts to organize the parade and ceremony, along with some volunteers and help from MainStreet Roswell. After Kane-Doerhoefer opted not to plan this year’s celebration, MainStreet Roswell took over, until August when Post 28 expressed interest in taking the lead.

Rowland likened putting the event together to a football game.

“We got the ball and we started carrying it across the field a little bit late, but we put together the offense and we had a couple of fumbles along the way, but it looks like we are going to carry the football to the goal line and we are going to make a touchdown and it should be a great success,” he said before the festivities got underway.

Lowell Hughes, a 99-year-old World War II veteran who spent most of his life in Roswell, each year has driven his Ford Mustang in the parade, a tradition he continued this year.

He added that the parade is important and that he loves to see the crowds along the parade route.

“I appreciate them thanking me for my service,” he said.

Hughes noted that he is one of the oldest veterans in Roswell and one of the community’s few living World War II veterans.

“I am just proud to still be around here,” he said.

This Veterans Day marked the centennial of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I, a fact that influenced many of the floats entered in the parade.

Brigadier Gen. Douglas Murray, dean of academics at the New Mexico Military Institute addresses the crowd as keynote speaker at the Veterans Day Parade in Roswell Saturday in front of the Chaves County Courthouse. (Alex Ross Photo)

Before the parade got underway, Brigadier Gen. Douglas Murray, a U.S. Air Force veteran and the dean of academics at the New Mexico Military Institute, said that although Veterans Day has come to be characterized by speeches, parades and retail sales, it is about much more than that.

The crowds that attended spoke volumes, but surveys show many young people don’t understand who fought in World War II and what caused that conflict.

Murray said Veterans Day is an occasion meant to remember, celebrate and dedicate. The first two are commonly understood, as people remember and honor those who have served, but people need to rededicate themselves to the values and principles that, throughout the ages, have inspired people to put on the uniform.

The United States is not a leader because of its wealth and military might, but because of a set of principles and a willingness to defend those ideals on the global stage, Murray said.

“Today is about rededicating ourselves to that proposition and what better way to recognize and celebrate our veterans than to do that?” he asked.

Individuals need to decide how best they can recommit themselves to those ideals, but Murray suggested the best way is to take some time to briefly talk to children about the meaning of the day, why it is celebrated.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

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