World War II veteran John Simons Jr., 91, at left, w as honored on Monday by the American Legion for his 70 years of continuous service to the organization. Roswell Post 28 Commander Orlando Padilla, center, and Membership Chairperson Nancy Britton visited Simons to make the award presentation. (Randal Seyler Photo)
Members of American Legion Post 28 honored a Roswell veteran on Monday for 70 years of continuous membership in the Legion.
John Simons Jr., 91, received an award for his lifetime membership in the American Legion — a membership that began with Simons’ service in World War II.
“Such record of consistent loyalty to the American Legion merits the honor of being cited as an outstanding contributor to the programs of the American Legion,” according to the award, which was signed by American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger and National Adjutant Daniel S. Wheeler, as well as local Post Commander Orlando Padilla.
“I’ve never met the national commander, I’ve just seen him in the magazines,” Simons joked.
Simons served in the Army during World War II. “I was a member of the 29th Infantry Division, and we served in the European theatre,” Simons said.
Simons, along with his two brothers, David and Donald, served in the Armed Forces during World War II. Simons and brother David served in the Army, while Donald served in the 4th Division of the Marines.
Born in Magdalena, Simons grew up in Artesia, the son of a businessman.
“Dad had a grocery store, Joyce Pruitt, which was sort of like a chain back then,” Simons said. “There was a store in Artesia and one in Roswell.”
Brothers John and David, serving in the Army in Europe, met while stationed on the continent on a few occasions during the war, Simons said, and both brothers survived the war.
Brother Donald served in the Pacific, and he was killed in the battle for Saipan in 1944, Simons said.
“It’s just an honor to meet someone with this type of service,” said Padilla, commander of Roswell’s American Legion Post 28. “Not just Mr. Simons, but his whole family served their country in World War II.”
Simons wrote a brief introduction to the 29th Infantry Division that he shared with his fellow veterans.
The 29th Division spearheaded the landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day, fighting its way through France to finally rendezvous with Russians on the Elbe River in Germany.
“It was an honor for me to serve in the 175th Regiment of the 29th Division during World War II,” Simons said.
Simons presented copies of the book, “29th Let’s Go: A History of the 29th Infantry Division in World War II” by Joseph Ewing to Artesia school libraries and the city library.
“I hear the education on World War II is really lacking in schools these days, and I want them to have some history of what it was really like.”
The history of the 29th Division traces back to the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, in regiments from Maryland and Virginia.
“The division is often referred to as the ‘Blue and Gray Division’ since some of its men fought for the Union Army and some for the Confederate Army during the Civil War,” Simons said.
Simons said he enjoyed his many years with the American Legion, and he most enjoyed the youth activities sponsored by the American Legion Post in Artesia when he was serving as post commander.
“I am really honored by this award,” he said.