New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez greets troops of the 717th Brigade Support Battalion who are scheduled for deployment to Kosovo during a yellow ribbon ceremony Thursday at the Roswell Convention and Visitors Bureau. (Mark Wilson Photo)
Emotions ran high at Thursdayâ€™s yellow ribbon ceremony at the Roswell Civic Center.
â€œItâ€™s a send-off … a tribute to the men and women of this community,â€ Mayor Del Jurney said. â€œWe want them to know that our prayers and our encouragement go with them when they travel across the globe. Our thoughts and our prayers go with them as they travel across the world, for a mission of peace-keeping to help other nations … continue to bring support and freedom to this nation. Itâ€™s a special day … a very special day.â€
Approximately 450 Army National Guard soldiers will be deployed to Kosovo for a â€œpeace keepingâ€ mission later this month. Among them are soldiers like specialist Amanda Guerrero and 1st Lt. Shad Hall. Guerrero and Hall trained for several months to prepare for their mission, which will take them away from their families for quite some time. Hall and his wife, Janette, are expecting two new additions to their family in the spring.
â€œWe have twins coming in March,â€ he said. â€œI think about them every day. I think about my wife and my family. Thatâ€™s part of the sacrifice that we make as soldiers. Unfortunately â€” my wife â€” sheâ€™s the one who has the hard part. Sheâ€™s got a family and a household to run.â€
For soldiers, spending time away from their families, is a great sacrifice. Yet, they are willing to do so, if it keeps their communities and loved ones safe from harm. The yellow ribbon ceremony symbolizes the sacrifice and dedication deployed Americans have for their nation. However, the ceremony transcends communal ideas and nationalism because it exemplifies love.
â€œTo me, itâ€™s something big for families,â€ Guerrero said. â€œSo … people can be with their families one last time [before they are deployed] to say goodbye. I love the yellow ribbon.â€
Guerrero said that sheâ€™s looking forward to the cultural experiences that she will have in Kosovo and also looks at her deployment as an opportunity to learn.
â€œIâ€™m really excited,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™m glad to have this opportunity, because being in Kosovo is going to create a lot of wonderful opportunities. They have great culture there, a lot of history â€” weâ€™re going to learn a lot being there.â€
Thursdayâ€™s ceremony featured many prominent members of the community and National Guard, who delivered moving oratory, in front of a crowd of more than 500. Some moments, like Sheryl Saavedraâ€™s reading of the history of the yellow ribbon, could only be completed with tears. Her presentation was met with praise and a standing ovation after it was read.
Other notables included New Mexicoâ€™s new sitting governor, Susana Martinez; Artesia Mayor Philip Burch; representatives from Sen. Jeff Bingaman; state Sen. Tim Jennings; state Rep. Nora Espinoza; several Roswell City Council members; the Roswell Fire Department; East Grand Fire Department; various veterans from the community; New Mexico YCA and many others. The New Mexico Military Institute band, led by Maj. Ken Tuttle, provided the music for the processional. The yellow ribbon was tied by Lt. Aaron McCaskey, along with his mom, and Staff Sgt. Gary Saavedra and his wife, Sheryl.
â€œItâ€™s a fantastic ceremony,â€ Jennings said. â€œTheyâ€™re going to be gone for a year. Theyâ€™ve all got their family members here. Theyâ€™ve got to look after each other. Itâ€™s a good send-off … to be your brotherâ€™s keep over there and watch– and be good for each other. I think itâ€™s a great send-off.â€