Former vice-commander asks residents to take pause

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Col. Philip Frazee, former 27th Fighter Wing vice-commander at Cannon Air Force Base, sums up his Monday morning address at the Memorial Day ceremony at Lawn Haven Cemetery as an MC-130W from Cannon Air Force Base flies overhead to close the event.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Amid a sea of flag-adorned gravesites, with a gunship en route, Col. Philip Frazee reminded a crowd Monday that the day was not about cookouts and time at the lake, but the soldiers who gave their lives to make those events possible.

“It may be easy to think of Memorial Day as another three-day weekend, another break for summer, another cookout,” said Frazee, the former 27th Fighter Wing vice commander, speaking to a crowd of about 150 at Lawn Haven Cemetery. “As all of you out here know, Memorial Day is more than that.”

Frazee, the current Air Force Junior ROTC instructor at Clovis High School, was featured speaker at the short morning ceremony. He spoke of the wars that laid the foundation for America’s superpower status and the millions of veterans who died during those wars. He also took a few minutes to personally name some of the soldiers who joined their ranks in overseas conflicts so far in 2010.

Formerly known as Decoration Day, the holiday was first created to honor Union soldiers in the Civil War, and was expanded after World War I to honor fallen soldiers from all wars.

The holiday in 1971 was officially positioned by Congress as the last Monday in May, but Frazee said an unofficial 3 p.m. remembrance was added so Americans wouldn’t forget the day during times of peace.

Frazee advised the crowd to, “set your watches, your clocks, your phones, whatever you use” for 3 p.m. to take a moment to honor those who gave all.

Following his speech, an MC-130W flew over the cemetery to conclude the ceremony. Maj. Mae-Li Allison of Cannon Air Force Base’s public affairs office said the ship from the 73rd Special Operations Squadron flew to Logan for a similar event before returning for the Clovis ceremony.

Sid Turner of the Curry/Roosevelt Counties Joint Veteran’s Council said the event would not be possible without the help of veterans’ organizations, each carrying their own flags at the ceremony.

“If you are a veteran,” Turner said, “and you don’t belong to one, you don’t know what you’re missing.”

The organizations placed most of the gravesite flags at veterans’ gravesites throughout Clovis and Portales.

With the ceremony done, citizens prepared to spend the day showing appreciation to veterans, as the Ladies Auxiliary of American Legion Post 117 prepared to do with a cookout at Post 3015.

The auxiliary members attended Monday’s ceremony in T-shirts reading, “Veterans Still Serving.”

Auxiliary President Elaine Mitchell said it was important to honor the fallen at every opportunity, and to keep in mind those fighting today.

“Even though they’re still around, they’re still in our hearts and minds,” Mitchell said. “We support them, dead or alive.”