Although a Memorial Day parade may be a thing of the past, people were outside again, many without masks, at last Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans Monument Park.
“We assemble to remember and reflect upon the great sacrifice that was made by brave men and women around the world to protect our freedom,” Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull greeted the gathering.
Before he read the official city proclamation, Hull said, “One word comes to mind; one word, and one word only: gratitude.
“Gratitude for the sacrifices that have been made so that I can stand here today and honor and recognize those that went before me to provide the very freedom that I enjoy on a day-to-day basis. … A simple ‘thank you’ is owed to those that gave that ultimate sacrifice and are still sacrificing to this very day.
“It doesn’t seem like enough sometimes,” he added. “It’s so easy to forget and say, ‘Thank you’ … for all the things we get to do in this country because of the freedoms that were provided to us by the blood of patriots.”
Reminders of the day’s meaning throughout the park included about 50 flags and pairs of combat boots next to photos of fallen service members, all laid out in military formation.
The ceremony and boot display were organized by Marine Corps League Detachment 1316, American Legion Post 118, VFW Post 5890, Women Veterans of New Mexico and the Military Order of the Purple Heart, all of Rio Rancho.
The ceremony featured the traditional singing of the national anthem, a prayer, Taps and a three-volley rifle salute.
There also were short stories of five New Mexico servicemen who’d made the ultimate sacrifice — “who’d left their legacy in the battlefield” — read aloud by current or past military members. Below the podium were photos of all five, with a pair of boots and an upended rifle.
Charles Walters was awarded the “Marine of the Year” award, and Narciso Baca Jr. was presented with a plaque honoring his father, U.S. Army Pvt. Narciso Baca Sr., killed during the Battle of Luzon in the Pacific Theater in January 1945, when Baca Jr. was 2 years old.
Closing the ceremony, Hull said, “We honor these traditions; we honor these sacrifices; we honor our veterans.”
Connie Peterson, director of the city’s Parks, Recreation & Community Services Department, told the Observer the city is planning for two parades this year: a Fourth of July Parade at City Center; and a Veterans Day Parade on Southern Boulevard.