Sense of relief washes over area

Eastern New Mexico celebrated Tuesday’s announcement an Air Force Special Operations wing is moving to Cannon Air Force Base.

By Tonya Garner: CNJ Staff Writer

Frank Sherman wore a knit shirt embroidered with “Operation Keep Cannon” above his heart. Below the stitching, Sherman placed a white strip bearing a small American flag and the words “We did it!” in ink.

“We did it,” summed up the feelings of residents throughout Clovis and eastern New Mexico on Tuesday as they celebrated the Pentagon’s announcement that Cannon Air Force Base will soon be home to Air Force Special Operations.

Sherman, pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church, said he and his congregation have prayed diligently over the past year that Cannon would find a new mission.

“I think it is great for Clovis and great for the economy.” Sherman said. “I always hoped they would receive a mission and it feels good to have it confirmed.”

Department of Defense officials recommended Cannon for closure last year, but thousands of area residents wrote letters and posted “Operation Keep Cannon” signs in their yards and outside their businesses as they joined politicians in efforts to keep the base alive.

Clovis City Manager Joe Thomas, usually quiet and reserved, wore a beaming smile on Tuesday. “It’s a good day,” he said. “Now if it would only rain.”

Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce Director Ernie Kos said the Chamber was responsible for the large signs displayed at Tuesday’s press conference in the Clovis-Carver Public Library’s North Annex. The signs read “Thanks Operation Keep Cannon” and “Operation Kept Cannon.” Kos said the banners were optimistically ordered in August.
“We only ordered a few,” she said, “but now we plan to order more.”

Kos could barely contain her emotions as happy tears filled her brown eyes. “My insides are doing somersaults,” she said. “It is miraculous that as a community, this was done in less than a year.”

Gerri Elliott said everyone who works with her in the Curry County Courthouse was quietly huddled around the radio anticipating Tuesday morning’s announcement. “I had goose bumps everywhere,” Elliott said.
“I am very excited. God has a reason for everything.”

Clovis resident Robert Willis said his reaction to the news surprised him.
The Vietnam veteran said his hands shook and his vision became blurred with tears.

“I actually pulled my truck to the side of the road,” Willis said, “and bowed my head and thanked God because the people of Clovis deserve this.”

Willis, a long-distance truck driver, said he looks forward to seeing the positive changes the new mission brings to Clovis. “I’m proud to be from Clovis,” Willis said, “and now I get to say Clovis is aiding in assisting the war on terrorism.”

Retired plumber Harold Walker likened his emotions to the miracle of a rainbow.

“It’s like the clouds have broke after a long rain,” Walker said. “Maybe now this town will become a place where Clovis graduates will want to stay, work and raise their kids.”