Socorro stood united on the 11th day of the 11th month and at the 11th hour to pay respect to its hometown heroes – its veterans.
At Isidro Baca park, it was standing room only as the local community honored its current and fallen veterans.
Civil Air Patrol Lt. Col. Dave Finley said veterans know our freedom comes at a price and are willing to pay that price. However, veterans also know freedom was not a one-time purchase and it was always under threat.
“Today, we need no more than watch the news to see the threats to our safety and freedom continue,” said Finley. “The threats are many and they are serious. We are grateful for those willing to defend our country in the past and those who are willing to do that today. This Veterans Day we honor those among us who are freedoms guardians.”
By showing the community gratitude for today’s veterans, Finley noted, we show future generations that service our country, is an act we honor and appreciate. “It is this dedicated service and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice, for our freedom that brings us together on this day to honor our veterans.”
Long-time Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhasker, said America has been chosen to keep the peace in the world as he recited the many conflicts in the world the United States has been involved in since Vietnam.
All those conflicts, Bhasker said, our service men and women have willingly served to protect the United States. “America has been called to be the policeman and we’ve taken it willingly to keep the peace. And don’t forget this world still is not a safe place.”
“The only reason I’m here is to say ‘thank you,’” said State Representative Gail Armstrong. “Everyone should think about what freedom means to you. It could be freedom of speech, freedom to worship. But all of us need to take heart, what does freedom really mean to you. We need to think and praise and do a better job of caring about our veterans. They’ve laid their life on the line and made the ultimate sacrifice. But as they come back to a world, to cities and to villages there are those who don’t treat them very well. They (our veterans) should be our pride and joy.”
State Representative Tara Jaramillo noted she only has to look at the memorial stone in Isidro Baca park to being her remarks, “Let us never forget.”
“I recall Isidro Baca’s cousin, Evelyn, saying, she drove him to the airport that day, telling her that one way or another I will be back. Every month collect a rose and keep it for me. She saved
six roses before he came home,” Jaramillo noted. “That story has stuck with me for a lifetime.”
Jaramillo said her grandfather, who was 101st airborne during World War II, never spoke about the war. Even though he loved stories, he never told war stories.
What he always said when Jarmillo said, ‘Thank you for your service,’ her grandfather told her to thank her grandma too.”
It was women like Jaramillo’s grandmother who sacrificed and became pillars of the community who helped keep their families together during wartime knowing their loved ones may not make it home.
Having many good friends who are veterans, Socorro County Commissioner Glen Duggins, said he can only imagine what war was like. “But if you’re not there, we do the best we can with our imagination.”
Later through the years, Duggins would hear stories of young men about the jungles in Vietnam. “Again, I can only imagine what it must have been like.”
Opening up and talking about the pains of war is painful for veterans, Duggins said.
U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Jerry Scoggins, who was a member of the honor guard, who brought Isidro Baca to his final resting place was the Veterans Day guest speaker.
As a 30-year Marine Corps veteran Scoggins remains active helping various veterans’ programs in Albuquerque including Toys for Tots. “I’m in awe to see so many veterans here tday,” said Scoggins. “Us veterans sacrificed for this country and this country is better off for what we have done.”
While the country must not forget its veterans and their service to their country, Scoggins also reminded those in attendance we should also not forget our POWS and the country’s servicemen who are listed as Missing in Action.
“They must remain alive in our minds and in our hearts until they return home to their loved ones,” Scoggins said. “I am a veteran. I have seen and done things you might never understand. I am a warrior and I’ll never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen brother or sister on the battlefield hurt or left behind.”
It was 1967 when Scoggins was in Socorro as part of the honor guard for Isidro Baca. “I was honored to with the Baca family. His memory has lived in my heart all these years,” said Scoggins. “As we were folding the flag, our legs were quivering until we started crying when we heard those taps. It’s (taps) is the final say-so until they go into be with the Lord.”
“Every time I see a veteran I thank them. That 30-second meet-and-greet usually becomes a 30-minute conversation,” he said. “The road I traveled hadn’t been easy, but I’m still here. The only reason is that I am here today is because God was walking that road with me every stop of the way. God brought me back home.”