Portales veteran recalls World War II

Judy Hall: Courtesy photo Portales World War II veteran Joe Blair recently qualified for the Southern Honor Flight, a program out of Las Cruces, which sends World War II veterans to Washington D.C. to see the World War II memorial. Blair said the veterans boarded their bus in Las Cruces to a military honor guard.

Cannon Connections Staff

Roosevelt County veteran Joe Blair served in the U.S. Navy from 1942 to 1946, serving on the U.S.S. Farragut during World War II.

“There’s not any such thing as a good war but If there was a good war, it would have been World War II,” Blair said. “Because all the people in the U.S. pulled together. Everyone was behind what was happening at the time.”

Blair said the DD348 Destroyer fought in 26 engagements on the coast of several islands, such as Guam, the Phillipines, New Guinea, Japan and more.

“On a ship, there’s no hand-to-hand stuff,” Blair said. “But we were always on the front of the lines on the shore.”

Blair said he remembers his ship shooting down three Japanese Zeros, but other specific experiences are difficult to talk about or pinpoint.

“So many of the younger people have no idea about the wars and veterans and what they went through and what they go through now,” Blair said. “The people who die in Iraq are just as important as the people who died in World War II. People just don’t realize what happens.”

After his 4-year service in the U.S. Navy, Blair spent 43 years in the television and appliance business, retiring in 1998.

Since then, Blair has devoted himself full time to veteran organizations and activities. He is currently the commander of the American Legion Post 031, live member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, member of Disabled American Veterans and commander of the American Legion Honor Guard.

“This is very important,” Blair said of his honor guard duties. “Because all veterans deserve a funeral where they are represented by someone who will carry the American flag for which they died for.”

He said he has presented flags at the funerals of veterans 224 times.

Blair has also received many honors over the years for his military service and his service to the community and veterans, such as being honored by the president of the Phillipines, Citizen of the Year in Portales and Pioneer of the Year.

Blair’s most recent honor was qualifying for the October 2011 Southern Honor Flight, a program out of Las Cruces, which pays to sent World War II veterans to Washington D.C. to see the World War II memorial.

“We were treated like royalty. You can’t imagine,” Blair said of the trip, which included the veterans being greeted by military honor guards at more than one airport and being honored with recognition at others.

Blair said he met Sen. Bob Dole, representatives of Sen. Tom Udall and Congressman Steve Pearce while on the trip.

“It was a great experience,” Blair said. “I would have never gotten to see the memorial otherwise. I met a lot of old codgers like me and we told lots of war stories.”