When I was a child what I knew about the military was what my Dad, Dick, told me. He had run away from the family farm and forged his father’s signature saying he was 16 and could join the Navy. He was 15, and when he got to basic in 1942, he caught measles, mumps and chicken pox and never learned to swim. It was World War II and they needed men, so they taught him Morse code. He became a radio operator and lost two ships the Japanese sunk in the Pacific. His life jackets always saved his life.
If service members were wearing a uniform and hitch hiking, they were picked up and taken to home or back to base. No one would refuse them. They were the “greatest generation,” and I believe that to be true.
Korea came next from 1950-1953. I was a baby, and my Dad did not go to that conflict. I was in college when Viet Nam became an issue. The entire attitude of serving in the military was under attack by those who would never serve and chose to run to Canada.
My whole family served. My brother was in the Army, and our sons joined the Air National Guard with their father who flew jet fighters. Our cousins served in the Army. And while Bill was with the New Mexico Air National Guard, he served with an outstanding group of people. When the Guard went to Viet Nam, Bill was learning to fly. After changing planes from F-100 to A-7 to F-16, Bill flew combat from Incirlik in Turkey.
Belonging to the military can also be dangerous even during peace time. In 33 years of flying with the “Tacos,” they lost 11 pilots. I was the friend who went to inform a couple of wives as part of a team composed of a Flight Surgeon, Commander, and a Chaplain. It is a silent horror that you always think is coming, but you beat it back, and pray and hope the knock at the door will not come. There is no greater sacrifice and no greater sorrow.
Today it is someone’s father, or mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle or lifelong friend. Today we have a volunteer military. Those who serve do so knowing what sacrifice those who came before made. They will follow their lead with honor and pride.
As the years roll by, the friendships never fade. Recently Chief Master Sergeant Leo Lovato passed away, leaving a hole in his family’s hearts, and still is very present in Bill’s. Leo would call Bill on Cinco de Mayo and ask if he had any good chili to celebrate with and did he make it himself.
Since Bill is a native boy, he always stopped by to see Johnny Garcia, Leo, and Pete Chavez knowing that when they were deployed together, they always had chili no matter where they were. Bill would beg a bowl and the problems of the day were gone. Those friendships do not lessen with the years, they grow deeper and forever.
On May 30, 2022, will be a day of remembrance for those who earned the Purple Heart, which signifies having been wounded in combat. The event begins at the town offices (in the old Edgewood Elementary School building) at 10-10:30, then proceeds from the offices to the Park, where Brigadier General Rafael Warren, USA will deliver the keynote address, after which there will be a reception for veterans and their families. That is then followed by Family Day for all of Edgewood. There will be vendors, music and games. Come and enjoy .
To all those who have served, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Roaring Mouse… Red, white and blue to all. Over and out.