Area servicemen share Memorial Day thoughts

Alisa Boswell: Freedom New Mexico Ricardo Hidalgo of American Legion Post 25 in Clovis adjusts the POW-MIA Empty Chair Display at Post 25 Friday afternoon. The POW-MIA flag will be carried at the 2011 Memorial Day Observance at Lawn Haven Memorial Garden at 10 a.m. on May 30.

Alisa Boswell

With Memorial Day approaching May 30, a few Clovis and Portales military and veteran residents decided to share what the holiday means to them and how they honor fallen comrades.

Senior Airman Craig McKay of Cannon Air Force Base said while he was in Afghanistan, he witnessed a ceremony in which the body a 22-year-old Marine was being transported back to the U.S.

“Seeing that put things in a whole new perspective for me,” he said. “We always hear about people passing away but actually being there and feeling that loss was a totally new feeling. It’s kind of a shock. It gives the word ‘dedication’ a whole new meaning.”

McKay, who is married, said the situation hit even closer to home, because the 22-year-old Marine who died left behind a wife and child.

McKay said he believes Memorial Day is day of unity for people to come together and realize they are not alone in their losses.

Robert Mathys of Farwell served in the U.S. Air Force for more than 20 years, retiring almost 20 years ago.

“Memorial Day for me is a day to honor the individuals who make the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” Mathys said. “I go to the two cemeteries in Clovis every year on Memorial Day. I just feel deeply that they need to be honored by everybody at this time of year.”

Mathys said close friends he grew up with were killed in combat and he goes to the cemeteries to honor them and other fallen veterans.

Joe Blair of American Legion Post 31 in Portales, served in the U.S. Navy for four years during World War II.

Blair said the destroyer he was stationed on was engaged in combat 26 times during his service.

“A lot of people just look forward to this day as a three-day weekend and that’s just not right,” Blair said. “It means to me, in my opinion, that we should honor the veterans who have fallen and given us our freedoms so that we can have this commercialization.”

Ricardo Hidalgo of American Legion Post 25 in Clovis served in the U.S. Army for 10 years and faced combat in Afghanistan.

“It’s always scary when you go into war,” Hidalgo said. “Anyone who says they’re not scared, they’re lying or they don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s an honor to do something for this holiday because if it wasn’t for them (veterans), we wouldn’t be here.”

Both Clovis and Portales American Legions sponsor Memorial Day celebrations at the local cemeteries on May 30.