By David Arkin: CNJ Correspondent
A decorated Clovis veteran will be honored today for service to his community and country.
Santiago Hidalgo, 58, will be the first honoree for the Cannon Air Force Base Airman Leadership School “Wall of Heroes” at 10:30 a.m. at the base.
The event is closed to the public.
Chief Master Sgt. James Randall of the 27th Fighter Wing said each class will select a veteran “hero” from the area. The class will research the war or a specific battle in which the veteran participated.
“The program was established as a way for ALS graduates to establish a connection with veterans in our local area,” Randall said.
At the ceremony, Hidalgo will be presented with a plaque, which will be placed on the “Wall of Heroes” at the base.
Hidalgo, who was out of town over the weekend and could not be reached for comment, served in the Vietnam War and has two Purple Hearts. He got the first Purple Heart for an incident where he was shot in the throat and arm and the second for when he was running for cover and fell over a trip mine and lost his leg. He also has a Bronze Star.
The airmen leadership class, which includes 21 people, will graduate during ceremonies on Thursday at the ALS, which is located on the base. Before an airman can sew on a staff sergeant badge, he or she must first pass the class, said Airmen First Class Jared Marquis, chief of media relations for the 27th Fighter Wing.
For many reasons, leaders in Clovis wanted to honor Hidalgo, said his best friend Gary Hamilton, owner of Hamilton Big Country Ford in Clovis.
Hamilton said Hidalgo, who has been fighting prostate cancer for four or five years, recently learned he may only live for three to six more months.
That, combined with Hidalgo’s countless community service activities and military background, made him the logical person for the Cannon class to honor, Hamilton said.
“He does so many wonderful things in the community for children and volunteer programs,” Hamilton said.
Hidalgo is the state chaplain for the American Legion and a member of the American Legion in Clovis.
Hamilton said for the last 20 years, Hidalgo has taken youth in the Clovis and Portales area to Boys State.
“He’s taken as many as 13-14 at a time,” Hamilton said.
Hidalgo’s also been involved with the Disabled American Veterans and delivers food baskets to those in need during the holidays. Hidalgo also presents the American Legions Americanism award to a local junior high school student every year, is in charge of the American Legion’s scholarship fund for graduating high school seniors and has been involved with Play Inc.
Hamilton said he looks forward to today’s ceremony.
“He not only is a great community man, he’s a great war hero and he’s also my best friend,” Hamilton said.