Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

5-30 Memorial Day

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE � This Memorial Day should be especially meaningful to New Mexicans. It comes during the 60th anniversary of World War II's end, which marked the return of our troops from foreign war zones.
And, of course, many of those troops didn't return. New Mexico's fighting men suffered some of the highest death rates in that war, mainly because almost all of the state's National Guard went to the Philippines, where they were left without food or ammunition, at the mercy of their enemy.
Today we remember those who paid the ultimate price defending our freedoms in all wars. And that includes our present war, in which many New Mexicans are participating and some are dying for their country.
Since our withdrawal from Vietnam over 30 years ago, our skirmishes primarily have been fought at long range, resulting in fewer casualties on our side. No longer do we have a world in which war deaths touch virtually every family in the nation.
The situation has led to a decreasing observance of Memorial Day in its traditional sense. The day now means a long weekend for most and the first opportunity to enjoy summer weather.
But we owe it to all our men and women who have served in the defense of our country to honor them on this day, especially now that more are being called to risk their lives.
Those who remember the horrors of war are becoming fewer and fewer. World War II veterans are now in their eighties. Most are no longer with us to remind us of their sacrifices.
But we must remember because it is those memories that put into perspective the consequences of future actions. Mothers remember. It often has been said that if mothers were in charge of war, nations would get along much better.
The same can be said of generals. They know the horrors of war. They aren't the gun-waving, testosterone-loaded leaders who get us into war. That's the pot-bellied politicos, most of whom skillfully avoided military service in their youth.
It is appropriate that New Mexicans pay special attention this year to our fellow citizens who didn't return from World War II. Most of them fought in the Pacific Theater.
A decade ago, author and publisher Eva Jane Matson compiled a list of 1,844 New Mexicans taken captive by the Japanese during World War II. Her very complete listing includes much biographical information along with service records, plus information on civilians taken captive.
She tells whether they were liberated, evacuated or exchanged. It tells if they spent the war years as a guerrilla in the Philippines. It tells if they died and where they died. It tells what prison camp they were in and what Japanese ship transferred them out of Manila as U.S. troops closed in.
All this information is contained in a book titled "It Tolled for New Mexico," from Yucca Tree Press. Additional topics include information about the New Mexico National Guard, Bataan memorials, monuments and organizations in the state, a listing by counties and hometowns of every New Mexican serving in the Pacific Theater and insights into New Mexico and the New Mexicans who served in the Guard.
This Memorial Day finds my wife and me on a month-long cruise from Honolulu to Nagasaki by way of the islands that were the sights of major World War II battles in the Pacific. Tomorrow we tour Midway Island and then head south through the Marshall, Gilbert and Solomon Islands to New Guinea and then up through the Marianas, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
I'm taking my computer and will keep you informed of what I find of interest to New Mexicans about our guys who served in the Pacific and about their efforts to fight their way toward Japan to rescue the Bataan veterans from their prison camps.
We look forward to an inspiring experience.
MON, 5-30-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)

I've already sent you a column for 5-30, but it can run anytime. This is appropriate for Memorial Day, so I'll count the one on 2006 political races as being for 6-1.
Thanks, J


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