Today is a very special day for many New Mexicans, one both near and dear to our hearts, and one that can be painful.
Since New Mexico became a state, and even prior to that, New Mexicans have given more than their fair share to defend freedom and democracy.
Not long after gaining statehood in 1912, more than 250 New Mexicans died in combat or of disease in World War I. More than 2,600 New Mexican soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen died in World War II, some of them suffering brutal and agonizing deaths during the infamous Bataan Death March.
There were also 24 New Mexicans lost at sea aboard submarines during World War II. They never got a ticker tape parade and medals pinned to their uniforms. Instead, they lie eternally entombed in their submarines on seabeds stretching to the Sea of Japan. USS Bullhead Memorial Park at 1606 San Pedro Boulevard SE is dedicated to 84 sailors who gave their last full measure up until the last days of World War II. Historians believe the Bullhead was sunk the same day the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Aug. 6, 1945. The submarine was the last U.S. Navy ship sunk by enemy action during WWII.
More recently, New Mexicans died at twice the rate of other Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of them was Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Rey Rodriguez of Las Cruces. He was killed in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province in February 2020 after an Afghan opened fire on him and other soldiers. Incredibly, it was the 2009 Mayfield High School graduate’s eighth deployment to Afghanistan.
Let us remember all their sacrifices today when we see American flags fluttering from homes, vehicles and at gravesites. Events are occurring across the state.
• The city of Rio Rancho will host a Memorial Day Ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park from 10 to 11 a.m.
• Speakers and historians will be stationed throughout Historic Fairview Cemetery, 700 Yale Blvd. SE, to tell the stories of the cemetery’s permanent residents. A donation of $20 per person is requested to help maintain the cemetery and provide educational materials. There will be a short ceremony and flag raising at 9:30 a.m.
• After a two-year pause due to the pandemic, the Santa Fe National Cemetery, 501 N. Guadalupe St., will host a public ceremony today beginning at 10 a.m. It will feature speeches, a moment of silence, a rifle volley and music from the Santa Fe Concert Band.
And a free event with representatives of all branches of the military will take place today at New Mexico Veterans Memorial amphitheater, 1100 Louisiana SE, in Albuquerque. Becky Christmas, the Albuquerque chapter president of the American Gold Star Mothers, is keynote speaker. Musical selections will be provided by The Dukes of Albuquerque, conducted by Ralph Harris, beginning at 9 a.m. A ceremony that will include Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham begins at 10 a.m.
There is no denying New Mexicans have a strong patriotic streak — many families have a tradition of serving in the military from one generation to the next. And we have disproportionately lost sons and daughters, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and friends and neighbors.
Today is a chance to remember those who made the supreme sacrifice and never made it home. Their home state and nation are forever grateful.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.