Heroes remembered — Commander: ‘Let us not forget’

Members of the Cannon Air Force Base HOnoer Guard stand at attention during a memorial ceremony Thursday at the base. CNJ staff photo Eric Kluth

Darrell Todd Maurina

Standing before an audience of uniformed airmen, officers, and members of veterans organizations, Cannon Air Force Base Commander Col. Robert Yates said Thursday morning that Americans around the country can never forget the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“We gather here today to sort good from bad, chaff from wheat, what’s important and what’s not, two years after we were attacked on that fateful day,” Yates said. “Let us not forget the closeness we all felt that morning, let’s not forget the anger, let’s not forget the resolve we all had as we saw the Twin Towers fall in New York City.”
Yates said the war on terror directly impacted Cannon Air Force Base, which at one point had nearly a quarter of its uniformed personnel deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom or other terrorism-related missions. About 80 of Cannon’s 3,400 personnel are still deployed, he said.
“(Cannon personnel) have been at the forefront of the war against terror since 9/11, but it is very important that we remember those who are still over there, who are still fighting, who are still losing their lives on our behalf to defend our freedom,” Yates said. “Today we’re here to commemorate the sacrifice of fellow Americans; we are still at war with evil.”
Yates noted that the ceremony, held in front of a monument at Cannon to members of the United States Armed Forces who were taken prisoner, killed in action, or remain missing in action, was intended to observe not only the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but also the national POW/MIA day normally scheduled for later in September.
While 88,000 Americans who fell in battle since World War I are still unaccounted for, Yates said no Cannon personnel have been among the American service members who lost their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He said not a single person from Cannon was even seriously injured and not one plane was lost.
Listening quietly in the stands, veterans of prior wars said they shared Yates’ gratitude and were glad to be able to attend. Jack Thomas, commander of AMVETS Post 14 in Clovis, said he always tries to attend memorial ceremonies.
“(Having memorial ceremonies) means everything to me, the whole world,” Thomas said. “I’ll never forget.”
Cannon wasn’t the only place where uniformed personnel gathered on Thursday. Furr’s Family Dining served free meals all day to police, fire, ambulance, and military personnel, and about half of the restaurant’s 800 customers were in that category. While people could show identification cards to obtain their free meal, the restaurant’s general manager said the majority wore their uniforms to eat.
“We are so happy to do it because we really appreciate these people,” said Victoria Gonzales. “This is company wide, every Furr’s cafeteria is doing this in New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona.”
Clovis city officials also held a brief ceremony Thursday morning in City Hall. “We felt it was important to provide a ceremony since not everybody can get out to Cannon,” said Claire Burroughes, assistant city clerk. “Mayor (David) Lansford opened the ceremony and showed an eight-minute Power Point presentation of things that happened on Sept. 11. He talked about the people who died on 9/11 and said he thought America is a stronger nation because of their sacrifice.”