Citizens remember those who served

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Ronie and Kathy Wall ride a motorcycle Saturday in the Veterans Day Parade on Main Street. Ronie Wall is a Vietnam veteran who was in the Navy for 20 years, he said.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Wanda Montoya watched her grandchildren run around Saturday on a sidewalk near the intersection of Main and Seventh streets.

They craned their necks past other people who stood on the sidewalk and peered out to Commerce Way, where a Clovis Police car stood idly with headlights flashing.

“They’re coming! They’re coming!” Isaiah Montoya, 4, cried, pointing at the distance.

Minutes later, a police siren started to wail, signaling the start of the Veterans Day Parade. About 40 floats, including six veteran groups, paraded down Main Street to honor the veterans who served their country.

Montoya said she comes to the parade every year. Her husband and her brother were both Marines.

Tobias Ray Villa, 43, gave a salute along with other veterans around him as the color guard made its way past them.

Villa served in the Army National Guard for nine years, where he worked on tanks.

Villa said he has a lot of respect for veterans, especially his uncles, who inspired him to join the military.

“You gotta do it some times, you gotta protect our people. If no one’s going to do it, who will?” he said.

He said one of his uncles suffers from the effects of exposure to agent orange, an herbicide and defoliant used during the Vietnam War.

But he said his uncle, who served in the 181st Airborne Division, sacrificed more than his health during that conflict.

“I can’t imagine being able to kill people, then go back to society,” he said. “He has to live with that, killing people like that. He has post-traumatic stress syndrome.”

A float of a soldier’s grave stopped in front of parade judges at the Curry County Courthouse. The crowd applauded the float, which included a death knell from a bell on its top.

Felipe Martinez, 72, comes to the parade every year to honor his friends who lost their lives while in the service.

He said his friends died when a plane carrying them home went down in Fort Lyautey, in North Africa. Martinez said he was supposed to be on the flight, but was pulled off at the last minute.

“I lost some good friends who never came back,” he said, struggling to hold back emotion.

At 17, Martinez said he joined the New Mexico National Guard in 1954, then joined he Navy three years later. After his stint in the Navy he joined the Air Force.

“In a way I wanted to try them all and see which one I liked better.” said Martinez who served in the USS Des Moines in 1958, which shipped marine and army troops to rescue American college students in Lebanon.

The parade ended in the Veterans of Foreign War Post 3280 building for an award ceremony for parade participants.

“Veterans Day is a day of honoring the men and women that have served in the armed forces,” said post commander Vernon Luce, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. “It’s a great time for veterans to socialize and reminisce.”

Holiday closings
Area banks will be closed today in recognition of Veterans Day. Also closed are area courts, county and city government and area post offices.

The Clovis News Journal will be open for normal business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.