ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Remembering those who didn’t make it home. New Mexicans are joining together to honor veterans on this Memorial Day.
In Albuquerque, a ceremony at the New Mexico Veteran’s Memorial included a musical prelude and a keynote address from former senator, astronaut and scholar, Harrison “Jack” Schmitt.
For some locals, Memorial Day traditions have nothing to do with hot dogs, lake outings or store sales. It’s all about honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
There was little traffic for those up early.
“We come here every year unless it’s pouring rain,” said Air Force veteran, Herbert Rickert Jr.
People like Rickert Jr. have made it a tradition to come to Santa Fe National Cemetery each Memorial Day.
They’re greeted with patriotic tunes preceding a solemn ceremony.
“You know for most Americans, Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer. For us here, today, it’s a day of remembrance, a day we pause to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice,” said Alan Martinez.
Martinez is Deputy Secretary of Veterans Services for New Mexico.
His message was clear– to always remember the sacrifices symbolized by these marble headstones.
“If they hadn’t, we wouldn’t be here,” said Rickert Jr.
Rickert Jr. can’t help but become emotional when he talks about what this day means to him.
“It means remembering the hundreds of thousands who went to battle for us,” he said.
It’s a sentiment shared by many who gathered at the cemetery, Memorial Day, who have made a tradition of honoring the fallen.
In Rio Rancho, several roads were shut down for a Memorial Day parade. Hundreds lined the route for the celebration, including some vets themselves.
Governor Susana Martinez attended a ceremony in Angel Fire at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial State Park.
The Memorial Day tradition dates back to 1868 when Union soldiers decorated the graves of their comrades killed in battle.
Congress dubbed it a national holiday in 1971.