Members of the Roswell Veterans Honor Guard prepare to play “Silver Taps” during the Spirit of ’45 Day celebration at Peachtree Village of Roswell, Saturday. (Vanessa Kahin Photo)
It was 66 years ago on a day not unlike today that World War II came to an end. To commemorate the announcement of the war’s end on Aug. 14, 1945, as well as those who served during the war, local World War II vets and their loved ones gathered for a Spirit of ’45 Day ceremony at Peachtree Village, Saturday.
Congress established the Spirit of ’45 Day last year. Mayor Del Jurney, Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., Secretary of Veterans Affairs of New Mexico Timothy Hale, and musician Tom Blake showed their spirit and support while honoring local veterans.
“I want you to know how honored I am to be your mayor,” said Jurney. “We’re a blessed community. … We’re blessed by these men and women that … put their lives on hold … so that we could do things like this.”
Pearce, a Vietnam veteran, said he often speaks to veterans and that many would rather not discuss what they went through during war. He said it is necessary for veterans to share their stories and, most important, that their accounts be remembered.
“We can never forget the medals in the boxes that represent … sacrifice beyond our comprehension,” Pearce said. “We are the beneficiaries … of that nobleness of the human spirit called service.”
Pearce and Jurney gave an honorable mention to five World War II veterans: Fred T. Bartlett, who served during the Battle of the Bulge and was awarded, along with his division, the Presidential Citation; James Goss, who also fought during the Battle of the Bulge; Rudy Cummins, a fighter pilot who is the recipient of the Purple Heart; Lloyd Soleman, who flew 23 missions into Germany; and John Anderson, whose twin brother died when they were both stationed at Pearl Harbor during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.
Goss said the special honor took him by surprise.
“I was sandbagged,” he said. “It’s kind of embarrassing. A lot of guys did a lot more than I did.”
Goss said he was on his way to the South Pacific when news arrived of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which forced Japan to surrender.
Goss said the consequences of not using the bombs would have been worse than what happened in the bombings’ aftermath.
“It was going to be a dirty war,” he said.
Hale briefly took the podium to thank the veterans.
“On behalf of (Gov.) Susana Martinez, thank you for being here, to honor … the greatest generation.”
It was remembrance of the greatest generation that compelled Fredda Sanders, marketing director for Peachtree, to help with the event.
“Our World War II vets are dying by the thousands,” she said. “That’s the greatest generation, bar none. … They went into (the war) at a disadvantage, and they pulled it off.”