Sam Donaldson, former ABC News Anchor, left, poses for photos with Doug Murray, Dean at NMMI. (Mark Wilson Photo)
Men from all over the country, who served for the 6th Bomb Wing and the 40th Bomb Squadron at Walker Air Force Base, came together Saturday evening at the Sally Port Inn to attend the first banquet in their honor. The Walker Aviation Museum Foundation Board honored Walker Air Force Base Veterans at the event entitled “Lest We Forget.” The program coincided with the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Roswell Army Flying School, the first anniversary of the opening of Walker Aviation Museum and the reunions of both the 40th Bomb Squadron and the 6th Bomb Wing.
Mayor Del Jurney presented a proclamation at the banquet declaring Sept. 17, 2011 as Walker Air Force Base Veteran’s Appreciation Day. The mayor also expressed his appreciation towards the Field of Honor events that took place at the New Mexico Military Institute. “As a mayor of a small town of 50,000 plus people, the pride I felt, in watching the cadets carry, individually, 1, 500 flags to be put in a formation, with such dignity and integrity, for the people that they represented and honored. And for the Institute to allow that to stand like that over the course of the past week for people to just drive by at all hours of the day and night to stop and reflect and share, that was pretty special.”
A self-proclaimed New Mexican, Sam Donaldson, a graduate of NMMI and long-time reporter for ABC News, was the guest speaker at the event. “We’re here to talk about Walker Air Force Base and the things it represents and the things in our country it represents.” Donaldson outlined the roles of those who served at Walker Air Force Base, not only while in Roswell, but during wars throughout our country’s history, “The people who served at Walker are people who participated in World War II, in the Korean War, in the Cold War, in the beginnings of the sixty when we came that close from a thermo-nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. And they were part of the defense of this country. World War II, had we not won it, we wouldn’t be worried about Al Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden, we’d already been invaded and subjugated by our enemies. 60 million people died in World War II most of them civilians. We just mourned the death of almost 3,000 on Sept. 11, 10 years ago and that’s important and we have to keep our guard up.”
Donaldson also spoke largely about the state of our country, specifically commenting on the current political atmosphere in Washington. “Our problems in this country are not our military. Our problems are ourselves. We’re at each other’s throats.” Stating the country is in gridlock, Donaldson said the rest of the world will not wait for the United States to solve its problems, and encouraged those in the room to demand their representatives move forward, solve the country’s debt and its’ spending problems so the United States can compete with the rest of the world.
Donaldson returned to the importance of Walker veterans, and their mark on history, stating, “I just remind people, the people who came before our present military, our present home defenders, our present services, did a job for this country that is not able to be repaid adequately. And the lest we forget is a wonderful slogan [George] Santayana, of course his famous victim, those who do not remember his fate are doomed to repeat it. He was right,” Donaldson said.