Memorial Day Ceremony Honors Three Local Heroes

The Empty Chair left for those who have passed or are missing at the Memorial Day Ceremony on Monday. VDP image

Memorial Day Ceremony Honors Three Local Heroes

ESPAÑOLA  – The annual Memorial Day Commemoration event began at 11:00 Monday and recognized and honored all military veterans who have served.

The Guest of Honor and speaker was Tony M. Lona III, a retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant. Sergeant Lona spoke about the impact of serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan and having participated in 156 “Ramp Ceremony/Dignified Transfers” to send off the remains of a deceased service member with honor.

Gunnery Sergeant Lona spoke about the impact these recent wars are having on those who are fighting them, with twenty two suicides from veterans occurring daily. He called on all veterans to get past the label of PTSD saying it should be called Post Traumatic Growth. Speaking to his fellow veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan he said “You are not allowed to feel sorry for yourself. We have these memories and they will never go away, but it is about growing to accept those memories, dealing with them and growing to keep living.” Gunnery Sergeant Lona ended his speech by sharing a blessing that he gave to his unit whenever they would go out on an operation in a combat situation. The blessing, which he says is Apache in origin, is as follows:

May the Sun bring you new energy by day,
May the moon softly restore you by night,
May the rain was away your worries,
May the breeze blow new strength into your being
May you walk gently through the world and know it’s beauty all the days of your life

In addition the Memorial Day ceremony singled out three individuals from the Valley who have passed away.

Sergeant Pernell J. Herrera
Memorial Day marks three years and four months that local hero Sergeant Pernell J. Herrera passed away in Province, Afghanistan while proudly serving his country. Pernell signed up with the NM National Guard on May 18, 2006 where he trained with C. Company, 1st Battalion, and the 171st Aviation Regiment our of Santa Fe. He trained with his unit for five years and then deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 where he served a vital role in the medivac operations as a “battlefield 911 dispatcher.” He was responsible for launching hundreds of missions to help bring wounded Marines and Soldiers from the battlefield. His fellow soldiers describe him as “someone who loved everyone”. Pernell made such an impact on his unit that an Operations building in Afghanistan was named after him. Five months later a short memorial was held at the Santa Fe airport. He then took his final flight on a Black Hawk helicopter to his hometown of Española  where he was embraced by hundreds from the community. He is survived by his mother Dolores, his children Julian and Alicia and his brother Arthur.

Abedon Maestas
Abedon Maestas (93), a resident of Arroyo Seco passed away on July 15, 2014. He was a member of the United States Army Armor Division from August 15, 1942 thru January 19, 1943 when he was served with an honorable discharge.

PFC Jose Elias Archuleta
PFC Jose Elias Archuleta, born January 10, 1926 passed away on January 20, 2008, was a decorated World War II Veteran. During his time of deployment from 1944-1946 he served in the United States Army under the 11th Armored Division, Charlie Company 22nd tank battalion. He received three bronze stars and a good conduct medal for his actions in Europe. Mr. Archuleta is a lifetime resident of Chamita, has two sisters and one brother and a grandson who also served in the United States Army. He has one daughter and three sons, 11 grandchildren, 7 great-grandchildren and a lovely wife of 60 years.

See below for more images from the ceremony.

Local chapter of the Blue Star Mothers. VDP image

EVHS Army JRROTC attended the ceremony to assit in the Posting of The Colors. VDP image

The crowd stands during the Laying of the Wreath. VDP image

Laying of the Wreath by Memorial Wall Commission President Mel Apodaca and the Knights of Columbus. VDP image

Attendees visit teh wall following the ceremony. VDP image