Bagpiper Johannes Hynekamp leads the DAV Honor Guard during a previous Memorial Day ceremony at Isidro Baca Veterans Park. The annual ceremony will be conducted Monday at 11 a.m.
John Larson | El Defensor Chieftain

A full program is scheduled next Monday for the Memorial Day proceedings at Isidro Baca Veterans Park. Ceremonies commence at 11 a.m. with the singing of the National Anthem by Tory Murrillo.

Dave Finley, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Civil Air Patrol attached to the Socorro Composite Squadron, will serve as Master of Ceremonies. Memorial Day is one of three dates on the calendar honoring America’s military men and women, along with Veterans Day in November and Armed Forces Day, which was last Saturday.

Finley clarified the reason for the three observances.

“I see on the web a lot of confusion about Memorial Day,” he said. “They’ll say we honor our veterans, and of course, that’s fine. But Memorial Day is set aside for honoring those who died while serving their country, such as in combat.

“Veterans Day, in November, is for those who at one time put on a uniform, but have been discharged,” Finley said. “Then, Armed Forces Day is held to recognize those on active duty in all branches of the military, taking in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard.”

Memorial Day is a much more solemn occasion, he said.

Members of the Socorro chapter of Disabled American Veterans will perform basic military honors at 11 a.m. accompanied by Johannes Heynekamp on bagpipes. Tori Murrillo will perform the Star-Spangled Banner. The DAV’s Chaplain Ashley Markert will provide the invocation.

The Memorial Day program will feature tributes to fallen servicemen and servicewomen by community leaders including Mayor Ravi Bhasker, Rep. Gail Armstrong, congresswoman Yvette Herrell (via a letter) and the DAV’s chapter president Daun Medaris. CAP cadets Capt. David Hines and 2nd Lt. Cristin Armijo will also give remarks.

Wrapping up the ceremony will be George and Gilbert Murrillo playing taps.

The High School Cadet Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol will provide a color guard and present colors, Finley said.

Initially proclaimed in 1869 to honor both Union and Confederate soldiers in America’s Civil War, the first observance of Decoration Day at Arlington National Cemetery was attended by various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, who presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the Grand Army of the Republic made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

The observance was expanded after World War I to include American casualties of any war or military action.

Since 1971, when Congress declared it a national holiday, Memorial Day has been observed on the last Monday of May, commemorating U.S. men and women who died while in military service, usually in harm’s way.

Isidro Baca, the namesake of the park in front of the Socorro County Courthouse, died on Aug. 21, 1967, while serving in the 3rd Battalion/3rd Marines in Vietnam. According to Ann Baca, who said in an interview when the park was officially renamed in 2009, her brother Isidro had been in-country six months when his jeep was ambushed near the DMZ in Quang Tri Province. He was 19.

Over the years Ann stayed in contact with the Marines with whom Isidro served. During a trip to Washington, DC a dozen years ago to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, she was able to speak with the Corpsman who attended to Isidro after the ambush.

“He told me Isidro died instantly. Altogether five were killed in the attack,” she said in the interview. “The ambush happened so fast. The three jeeps were ambushed on a muddy road one-half mile from his unit’s compound in Ca Lu. He was actually on his way back from a week’s R and R in Formosa.”

She was shown photographs that helped her visualize conditions of the surrounding area where Isidro was stationed.

“The road was so muddy, and the jungle around it was so dense,” Baca said. “They used Agent Orange to clear the sides of the road where the Viet Cong would shoot from. I was told the soldiers were told to cover themselves when the Agent Orange was dropped. But it was still in the air, after they were told it was OK. Back then they didn’t know it would make them sick.”

Baca also met one of Isidro’s buddies from Mike Company.

When the park was dedicated, the memorial was a simple brick memorial.

“In 1993 my dad got together with committee members and came up with the pyramid. And to add all the names on the pyramid,” Baca said. “It was wonderful how the community came together and dedicated the park so soon after Isidro was killed.”

In addition to Isidro Baca, the dedication plaque honors Socorrans Donald R. Alexander, Willie B. Lee, Florentino Tafoya Jr., George Eloy Tafoya, and John V. Tafoya.

The Memorial Day program is held adjacent to the granite wall dedicated to all New Mexicans killed during World War II.

Also on Monday, a national moment of silence will be observed at 3 p.m.

To ensure the sacrifices of America’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed, and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act.”

According to the U.S. Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs, the commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”