Homelake Veterans Center holds Memorial Day ceremony

Lawyer and Veteran Eugene Farish was the keynote speaker of the Memorial Day ceremony at the Homelake Veterans Community Living Center Cemetery. Photo by Marie Mccolm

MONTE VISTA — A Memorial Day ceremony was held at the Homelake Veterans Community Living Center Cemetery on Monday, May 29. Approximately 100 people attended the ceremony, the first open to the public since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ceremony began with an introduction by US Air Force Rio Grande County Veteran Service Officer, Jack Rudder. The posting of the Colors by the Color Guard followed. The national anthem was sung by El Coro Alegre de San Jose from Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Monte Vista.

Steve Dunkel, of the US Army and pastor of the Methodist Church, gave an opening prayer and then Phillip Mackey, of the U.S. Army National Guard, introduced the Keynote Speaker, Eugene Farish.

Upon graduating from Vanderbilt University in 1963, Farish joined the Army as Private E1, Mackey said. After completing training in Louisiana, he attended infantry officer candidate school at Fort Benning, Ga., where he was commissioned the Second Lieutenant.

Farish was sent to Motor Officer School at Fort Knox, Ky., once he completed Jump School at Fort Benning. He was stationed at the last camp north in Korea. He volunteered for special forces upon completion of his Korean tour of duty. He was assigned to the 3rd specialist forces group at Fort Brag North Carolina.

In 1967 at the end of his extended military duty, Farish was admitted to Law School at the University of Wyoming. He received his doctorate in June of 1970, and was admitted to the Wyoming State Bar. He then moved to Monte Vista and was admitted to the Colorado Bar. Farish has been practicing law for over 50 years.

“There are few people today protecting our rights on the battlefield and in our court room,” Mackey said.

Farish thanked the Home Lake Veteran’s Community Center for the ceremony and the opportunity to speak about the history of Memorial Day.

On May 5, 1868, John Logan Commander and Chief of the Grand Army of the republic, issued general order number 11, designating May 30, as a day for decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country, in the Lake Pavilion. He was referring to the Civil War, explained Farish. During the next 100 years, the tradition of Memorial Day evolved to honor those Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coastguard

In 1968, congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May of each year to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. This change became effective in 1971.

This cemetery of over 1,600 gravesites, contains the bodies of two veterans of the Mexican American War of 1846-48, 548 union soldiers, nine confederate soldiers from the Civil War of 1861-65, 78 from the Spanish-American War in 1898, 128 from World War one in 1917 and 18, and 128 from World War two in 1941 to 45, 9 from Vietnam and 3 from Iraq.

“As I prepared this address, I saw an image which represents all the Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, and Airmen that have given their lives for this country,” Farish said. “Throughout its history my thoughts return to the inscription below the statue of the Lone Infantry Soldier the front of Officer Candidate school in Fort Benning, Georgia. ‘Hardship and Glory I have known. My bleeding feet stained the snow at Valley Forge. With Washington I crossed the Delaware, tasted victory at Yorktown and saw our Nation born. At New Orleans, I fought beyond the hostile hour, discovered the fury of my long rifle, and came of age. Westward I move with a covered wagon. March with the empire across the planes, in far flung outposts on the wild frontier.’”

Farish continued to read the entire inscription and concluded by saying, “Wherever brave men and women fight and die for freedom, you will find me. I am always ready now and forever.”

Farish said that in the news lately there have been so many images that divide, making people all long for an image that unites for a common purpose. Farish stated that everyone there did not have to look further than 50 yards from where they were sitting to find the answer. Farish spoke of Marine Cpl. Randal Rosacker, Sgt. Glen E. Martinez, and Sgt. Faith Hinkley, stating that all three were enigmatic to many others that had also been laid to rest in the cemetery. Reminding everyone of their love for their country and cause of freedom, with them laying down their lives for their country.

Farish concluded by saying, “God bless the souls of those who rest in eternal peace in this place. God bless this Home Lake Community. God bless the United States of America.”

There was a presentation of wreaths for the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, and for the VFW. A remembrance of Homelake Veterans residents was then given by Mindy Montague. Montague read a list of residents that had passed away from 2019, to present.

The tolling of the USS General Patrick Bell was held. Pat Rosacker and John and Joan Cavaliere, tolled the bell for Cpl. Randal Rosacker.

Ron and Carol Martinez tolled the bell for Sgt. Glen Martinez and David and Annavee Hinkley tolled the bell for Sgt. Faith Hinkley. A rifle salute was also held shortly after the tolling.