Portales veterans honoring returning, deploying airmen

Freedom New Mexico: Argen Duncan Attendees at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9515 “Hail and Farewell” event Friday listen to a speaker. Once a month since January, the local VFW post has been recognizing Cannon Air Force Base 27th Special Operations Support Squadron personnel who are deploying or have returned from deployment.

Argen Duncan

The Portales Veterans of Foreign Wars post is honoring deploying and returning airmen with a monthly ceremony.

VFW Post 9515 is the only one in the state to hold “Hail and Farewell” celebrations, although it’s a nationally supported program, said Ladies Auxiliary President Debbie Welch. The VFW and its Ladies Auxiliary come together to put on Hail and Farewell, which involves a ceremony, food and social time.

Post Commander Charles W. Eaton II, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, said he’d like to see the events the post began holding in January grow. A lot of things can go on around them, he said.

“We want to recognize the contributions these young people are making because everyone here has gone through it,” Eaton said. “A lot of people don’t understand the sacrifices.”

Welch said she wanted the post to gain more members.

VFW Post 9515 has adopted the 27th Special Operations Support Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, Eaton said. The Hail and Farewell events focus on that unit.

Master Sgt. Michael Roxberry has attended every Portales Hail and Farewell so far and is a VFW member.

“I think it’s an honor that the VFW has joined up with the squadron at Cannon to be able to support each other and support the troops that come and go,” he said. “It instills a sense of pride in each and every one of us.”

Heather Allred, whose husband is stationed at Cannon, said she became involved with the VFW soon after her husband deployed. VFW post Junior Vice President Daun Medaris helped her with dog chores and then called her when he needed help providing food and gathering people for the first Hail and Farewell.

Allred and her acquaintances came through, and she is still attending.

“I know all the people, but every time you come, you become more family,” she said, adding that the VFW is a good place for young people.

Allred also likes the ceremony.

“Growing up as a military child, I enjoy coming and listening,” she said. “And they talk about the past and the present and how we’re not the same as we used to be.”

The ceremony includes the Pledge of Allegiance, recognition of deploying and returning airmen and remarks by post leaders, including a set statement on the past and present military.

Also, at the most recent Hail and Farewell on Friday, Portales Junior High School student Tristan Tucker was honored for winning the Ladies Auxiliary Patriot’s Pen essay contest at the local level. Tucker is to advance to the district contest.

Eaton said he didn’t know when Hail and Farewell started. However, for decades, units have been given farewell parties when they deployed and hail parties when they returned, he said.

“And with so many people going and coming, you almost always had some of both at the party, so it became both hail and farewell,” Eaton said.