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Roswell celebrates Veterans Day

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New Mexico Youth ChalleNGe Academy cadets lead marchers in the Veterans Day parade south on Main Street Saturday. The parade was organized by American Legion Post 28. (Alex Ross Photo)

Local residents gathered in downtown Roswell Saturday to honor the sacrifices of military personnel past and present with a Veterans Day parade and ceremony.

Members of Boy Scout Troop 149 march on Main Street Saturday during the Veterans Day parade. (Alex Ross Photo)

American Legion Post 28 organized the parade, which started at 9 a.m. The parade started at the Wool Bowl on North Grand Avenue before turning west onto East College Boulevard, then left onto South Main Street. It ended at the intersection of Main and Fourth Streets near the Veterans Memorial.

A portion of Main Street between College Boulevard and Fourth Street was closed to traffic.

Mark Rowland, chaplain for American Legion District 6, said this year’s parade consisted of about 22 entries, including the New Mexico Youth ChalleNGe Academy Corp cadets, a John Deer tractor, a series of antique cars, a World War II era jeep and numerous marchers.

Motorcyclists from the Eagle Riders, Elks Lodge Riders and Honor Guard also took part in the parade.

Before the marching got underway, spectators were already lining the parade route. Chelsey McVicker, who was at the parade with her two sons, husband and cousins, said she has attended the parade each year since she was a young girl.

“We have uncles and cousins and brother-in-laws that have all served, so we come out just to show our support,” McVicker said.

Unlike last year, the parade preceded a ceremony honoring veterans. The parade route also changed from the year’s, which started at Main and Fourth Streets and headed north to Stapp Field at the New Mexico Military Institute.

Following the parade, a ceremony was held at the Veterans Memorial on the lawn of the Chaves County Courthouse.

The Youth ChalleNGe Color Guard opened the ceremony with a posting of the colors and local singer Tom Blake performed the National Anthem and later “God Bless the USA.” Boy Scouts of Troop 149 led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

In his invocation, Rowland prayed that veterans be spared the pain of depression and post traumatic stress disorder.

“Dear God, we ask that you would be with us and help us overcome these things so that we can continue to serve you and our country,” he said.

The family of Sally Byrne, who organized the parade from 2001 to 2004, was honored during the ceremony. Her husband and daughter were each presented with certificates honoring Byrne, who died in 2005.

Wreaths were also laid at the Veterans Memorial, representing the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Merchant Marines, U.S. Coast Guard and the Legion.

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-NM, and Brigadier Gen. Douglas Murray, Dean of Academics at NMMI, were the event’s featured speakers.

Torres Small, whose New Mexico 2nd Congressional District includes Roswell, told the crowd that veterans were able to put aside political and geographical differences to serve and save their nation.

“And because of that, we are still here today, this proud union, able to pursue our dreams and our opportunities, ready to fight for our country,” she said.

Torres Small said the spirit of service that military personnel carried into service has continued even after they have left the military.

“You come home and you help others to get the benefits you have earned. You come home and you have families. You come and help homeless and you come home and you build communities,” she said.

In his 10-minute speech to the crowd, Murray told the audience that in honoring veterans Americans make a commitment to who they are and what they did: to live and even die for something more than themselves.

“We single out the veteran today because their service insures that something, America, its ideals, values and principles will live forever,” he said.

Murray said he has lived in many places during his time in the Air Force, but he does not know of any other city the size of Roswell that has so many events in celebration of Veterans Day.

He also offered his thoughts on the theme of the parade: “Keep’ em flying.” Murray explained that though the airplane was invented in North Carolina, Roswell played an instrumental role in the development of aviation as a way to protect the United States in times of both peace and war.

Roswell, he said, was identified in 1941 as one of the first places to train pilots to fight during World War II in the European and Pacific Theaters. He added that Walker Air Force Base, which was established in 1947 and closed 20 years later, played a crucial role in the nation’s defense and the ending of the Cold War.

“This is the real ‘Roswell Story’ and is not one of aliens, but of men and women in and out of uniform who for more than half a century have contributed to the security of this nation, and in doing so, sustained the nobility of the American character,” Murray said.

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