By Sarah Meyer, CNJ staff writer
A retired U.S. Navy officer believes veterans should get more acknowledgment for their service.
To that end, Richard Robertson, a retired chief petty officer and now director of the Retiree Activities Program at Cannon Air Force Base, hopes to compile a list of all veterans in a five-county area.
“If they hadn’t fought the Revolutionary War, World War I or World War II, we might be speaking German or Russian instead of speaking English and being able to say what we want when we want and how we want,” Robertson said.
Robertson said the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services doesn’t know how many veterans are here, he said.
“I think they ought to have a little better handle on things about veterans because that’s all they’re supposed to do,” Robertson said.
John Fondrick, service officer for the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services office in Clovis, said state officials don’t know how many veterans are in a given county at one time. Even the federal Veterans Affairs may not know the exact whereabouts of a veteran, he said. For example, a veteran receiving benefits may move from Texas to New Mexico, but still have his benefit check deposited in a Texas bank.
“I think (a list) would be a good idea, as long as it’s not abused,” said Fondrick. “We could be able to get in contact with them.”
He said he does have concerns about the Privacy Act.
“I think it’s a great idea so all veterans will get the benefits they’re entitled to,” said Vernon Luce, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Carnine-Wiseman Post 3280 in Clovis. “And the state will know who they are and what they did.”
Luce said he plans to work with Robertson this week to go through VFW Post 3280’s information and “get him started.”
The department of Veterans Services is working on its own database, Fondrick said, but only has names of people who come into one of the 17 field offices in the state seeking assistance for benefits.
Robertson said he wants to compile a list of veterans in Curry, Roosevelt, Quay, Guadalupe and De Baca counties.
“We can never say it is complete,” he said. “Every day, we’re getting more veterans.”
Robertson said he would share his list with Veterans Services. And he said acknowledgment of military service is important because “so many people, including people in government, just don’t care.”
Names of veterans in any of the five counties, along with dates of service, military branch and war served in can be sent to Robertson at Building 600, Suite 1024, Cannon Air Force Base, 88103.
The Clovis office of the N.M. Department of Veterans Services can be reached at 762-6185.