I was reading that in New Mexico we have somewhere around 175,000 veterans, with maybe 1,800 in Socorro County, so I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone knows someone who has served or maybe has served themselves or is serving right now.
I’m talking about members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Having put in my stint a lifetime ago, I must confess here there’s a part of me that still believes I can get into that old Air Force uniform I took off when I was 22.
This is especially true on Veterans Day, always observed in the 11th month on the 11th day, with ceremonies at the 11th hour, the day and time recognizing the signing of the armistice with Germany in 1918, putting an end to the hostilities of World War I.
In school, I wasn’t taught too much about World War I past the assassination of Austria’s Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, the alliances between European countries, and the American Expeditionary Force’s involvement. And oh yes, the influenza epidemic.
Sure, I’d also seen movies about World War I like “Lawrence of Arabia,” “All Quiet On the Western Front,” “1917,” “Paths of Glory” and others, but didn’t get a grasp on the enormity of the thing until I read “The Guns of August” by Barbara Tuchman.
By the time the war ended, countries in every continent on earth were involved. In the aftermath, new countries sprang up.
Then in 1919, one year later, Armistice Day was proclaimed, and by 1938 it was declared a federal holiday. After World War II and the Korean War, it was renamed Veterans Day and redefined to recognize all U.S. military veterans.
It’s coming up tomorrow at 11 a.m. Once again, there’ll be a nice ceremony flanking the pyramid at Isidro Baca Park.
On the pyramid is a brass plaque with the names of the six young people from Socorro who died in Vietnam. Across the way are the names of all New Mexicans who were killed in action, missing in action, or taken as prisoners of war in Vietnam.
The 399 names — from Delbert Abeyta to Juan Zamora — are engraved in the four polished marble slabs, much like a smaller version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
And not to forget the plaque honoring Socorro County members of the 515th Coastal Artillery Battalion in the Philippines, some of whom perished on the Bataan Death March or in forced labor camps on the Japanese mainland.
In the end, there’s one thing they all shared, and that’s the sacrifice they made for the rest of us.
If you want a dose of patriotism and to see how Hollywood was supporting our troops overseas during World War II, check out movies like “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,” “Watch On The Rhine,” “Gung Ho,” “Hollywood Canteen,” “Action in the North Atlantic” and “Air Force.” That’s just the tip of the cinematic iceberg.
So tomorrow, be there or be square. Or perpendicular. Or triangular.
Pardon me for my rambling off track here, but for the last couple of months I’ve overdosed on TMI — too much information — but at least as of Wednesday, the national media’s obsession with the election has been dialing down a bit.
Am I alone in being grateful all the political campaigning and sloganeering is now over? The passion Socorroans display over politics is, I suspect, not too different anywhere else in the land of the free, but things can sometimes get wonky.
To put things in perspective, I ran down a post-election issue of this newspaper from November 10, 1900. The headline on this date 122 years ago proclaimed that Teddy Roosevelt beat William Jennings Bryan for the presidency, and Elfego Baca defeated Anastacio Torres for school superintendent.
Remember now, this was 20 years before women could legally cast their votes, but reading the following brief in that old issue of The Chieftain, the ladies of the day apparently learned how to control the vote, one could say, by proxy:
“There was evidence of a large amount of buying and selling by both parties. The price of a vote seemed to range from a drink of whiskey to a sheep and even higher. It was actually reported that several married women informed certain candidates that they controlled the votes of their husbands and sons and that five dollars must be forthcoming or those candidates would suffer when the hour of reckoning came.”
One last thing, with the cold and flu season upon us, I am dutifully going up to the VA hospital this month to get my flu shot. There are a lot of good people up there, and every time I go, I can’t help but think that every day is Veterans Day at the VA.