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Cost of defending freedom remembered in Roswell

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Michael Trujillo, commander of American Legion Post 28, speaks at the Memorial Day event Monday at General Douglas L. McBride Veterans Cemetery in the South Park Cemetery in Roswell. The Legion organizes the event each year. (Alex Ross Photo)

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Local residents gathered Monday at the General Douglas L. McBride Veterans Cemetery in Roswell to pay tribute to veterans of the U.S. military who sacrificed their lives to defend the United States.

Members of the Roswell Veterans Honor Guard post the colors during the Memorial Day ceremony Monday at General Douglas L. McBride Veterans Cemetery. (Alex Ross Photo)

The hour-long ceremony hosted by American Legion Post 28, with assistance from the local Boy Scouts and the Roswell Veterans Honor Guard, was one of sobriety and celebration.

Jamie Fierro, former commander of the Legion and the master of ceremonies, said to the crowd that a veteran, whether active duty or not, “is someone who at some time in his or her life wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to or including his or her life.”

Michael Trujillo, new commander of Legion Post 28, said each year about 100 people assemble at the General Douglas L. McBride Veterans Cemetery — located within the South Park Cemetery. Trujillo later estimated about 200 were in attendance this year.

He said that this past weekend, members of the Legion, the Roswell Honor Guard, the Boy Scouts and New Mexico Youth ChalleNGe cadets placed 3,000 flags on the graves of military veterans at South Park Cemetery for Memorial Day. The groups planned to collect those flags Monday evening.

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In his speech to the crowd Trujillo, a 24-year Army veteran who served from 2005 to 2006 in Iraq, said Memorial Day is a time to ensure those who died in service to country are not forgotten.

“Memorial Day is the most solemn day of holidays, a time to unite, a time to remember, a time when a grateful nation takes pause of the cost for defending freedom and remembers the soldiers who paid the price,” he said.

Trujillo later said 42 million Americans have served their country in its defense since the establishment of Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army in 1776. Since then more than one million have died and more than a million-and-a-half have been wounded.

The service of those men and women is a debt that cannot be repaid, he said.

The ceremony began when motorcyclists with the Patriot Guard Riders thundered down the slender, flag-lined streets of South Park Cemetery to the veterans cemetery.

MaryAnn Murphy, assistant state captain of the Patriot Guard Riders, said before the ceremony began that as many as 50 cyclists, most local residents, were at this year’s memorial ceremony.

She said that for many veterans, the freedom that comes with riding a motorcycle can be therapeutic.

Murphy said her late husband — a military veteran — used to ride a chopper, which he would refer to as his therapy bike.

The Roswell Veterans Honor Guard, led by Commander John Taylor, took part in a posting of the colors and Mark Rowland, chaplain for American Legion Post 28, gave the invocation.

“God, please look with mercy on our brave and selfless brothers and sisters who did not shirk from their task but gave themselves completely to the cause of defending and protecting us all,” he said.

Minnie Sosa, auxiliary chaplain with American Legion Post 28, later gave the benediction.

Boy Scouts led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Local musician Tom Blake performed renditions of “God Bless America” and “All Gave Some.”

Judy Stubbs, a Roswell city councilor, read a proclamation from the city.

Service wreaths were placed for the Military Order of the Purple Heart Auxiliary, American Legion Auxiliary, Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary and Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary. A wreath was also placed for members of the military who were prisoners of war or missing in action.

Diane Ventura from the office of New Mexico U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich read a statement to the audience on behalf of Heinrich.

“On this Memorial Day, I join all Americans in honoring our fallen heroes and keeping those serving today, at home and abroad, in our thoughts and prayers,” Ventura said as she read from Heinrich’s prepared statement.

In his statement read by Ventura, Heinrich said New Mexico has lost some of its last surviving World War II veterans in the last year, including Navajo Code Talkers and Bataan Death March survivors.

“We will never forget how their immeasurable contributions led to the victory of freedom and liberty over totalitarianism …” Ventura said reading from Heinrich’s statement.

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

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