Monday, May 29, 2017

Special Remembrances on Memorial Day

This is the day set aside every year to remember loved ones and those who served. Coming from a family with a brother, father, uncles, nephews and niece--not to mention my spouse and several members of his family--who all served the U.S. military in various branches, this day holds a lot of meaning for me.

The military is a long and honorable tradition that has helped keep our country and our way of life secure for generations--and did, in fact, allow us to gain independence as a nation with the creation of our rag-tag colonial military.

I never served in the military, but I did serve the military for over 20 years in a civilian support capacity as a budget director for the New Mexico National Guard. Though the experience isn't at all the same as being among the ranks, I learned a lot about military life and what it means to serve via being "married to the military" and from my career immersion involving two branches of service, since the National Guard incorporates both Army and Air Force components. (The Army and Air Force Reserves are actually separate organizations).

Sadly, the National Guard is probably the most overlooked of all our military entities, even though its members have probably done as much or more to aid, assist and protect our country. That's because the Guard not only makes up a good percentage of the forces serving overseas, but under Title 32 of the U.S. Code, the National Guard is the only military force available to the governor of each state to defend against manmade or natural disaster, riot or other major catastrophes that occur here at home.

During my tenure, the New Mexico NG was activated to assist with major wildfires (including the infamous Cerro Grande fire in 2000 that almost destroyed the Los Alamos National Lab), floods, tornados, hurricanes (including Katrina), blizzards, severe hail storms, search and rescues, hazardous material response, water hauls to communities in need, and one particularly painful mission to find and recover a crashed State Police helicopter and its occupants, one of whom was Sgt. Andy Tingwell, well-known to many of us. The Guard has also aided in prison riots (including one of the most violent in American history at the State Penitentiary in Santa Fe).

But as mentioned previously, the National Guard also serves in a federal capacity in foreign wars and police actions. Many of the NMNG were survivors or victims of the notorious Bataan Death March of WWII.

Because of the ability to be mobilized at the local, state and national level, the National Guard is the most versatile of all our nation's military resources...and it's roots pre-date the birth of our nation.

If you look up the historical facts, you're likely to find a statement that the origins of the National Guard dates to December 13, 1636 when the Massachusetts Bay Colony first organized three military regiments to defend against certain Native Americans groups.

Some historians in New Mexico dispute that claim, because the history of the organized militia here goes back even further. Early Spanish colonists formed a reserve in 1598--the Spanish Colonial Militia--that predates the Massachusetts Bay Colony by about 40 years. If you're a history buff, you can read a more detailed account in a document prepared by LTC Ezequiel L. Ortiz for the National Guard Convention hosted by New Mexico in 1995, Historic Highlights of the New Mexico Army National Guard.

So here's to all those we remember, to our brave veterans and our currently serving military members --and I'll add a special nod to those who served or are serving the National Guard both here at home and on foreign soil.

Another Fond Remembrance

For me, Memorial Day also brings back memories of old friends, like our old pal Silver, who we miss so much. Silver passed over the rainbow bridge in August 2015 at the grand old age of 31. We had owned him for 29 years, so yes, very much a part of our family. After he passed, it was heartbreaking to see his empty stall.

Silver (registered Silver N Straw; he was a grandson of famous Appaloosa sire Roman's Straw Man) had been bred by a prominent breeder in Oklahoma, but because he had no typical appaloosa pattern, he was registered via Certified Pedigree Option, or CPO. This is were his DNA was compared to that of his sire and dam to prove his parentage. After being approved and accepted into the Appaloosa registry, he received a freeze brand--a small line of white code--just under his mane as a form of identification.

Silver was a solid grulla--a dun factor color that looks like a grey buckskin--with a lot of chrome (white markings). You can see where he got it. This is a photo of Silver with his dam, Mighty Mission, though they look more like twins! That's Silver is on the right.

Silver became a multiple halter and reserve halter champion--and the #2 high point halter Appaloosa in the country--before being sold to an equine dealer in Iowa.

We just happened to be vacationing with David's sister in Iowa that year and happened on that particular sales barn, and yes, you guessed it--the souvenir we took home was a horse! :)

Silver went on to become a show horse under saddle (with several first and second place ribbons in both Western Pleasure and English Pleasure), my dressage horse, a ranch horse, a riding horse, an elk hunting mount, and served a stint as a junior hunter for a local girl.

After being retired back to our ranch, he lived out the rest of his days lounging and playing with the mares and babies in the pasture. We've lost a few other horses over the years, but he's the only soul who is buried on our property. We have big plans for a memorial for him.

In the meantime, I had Silver immortalized in a model portrait, and I was pretty thrilled with the end result. The artist was Sue Kern Thompson, who also did our mare and foal model portraits of Blazing Bartok and Blazing Away. (I posted their photos previously on this blog--click and scroll down.)

This one is particularly special, because the artist made changes to the angle of the head, re-sculpted the withers and added special detail to the tail--that makes this guy one-of-a-kind.

Here are a few detailed studio photographs of the finished product the artist gave me permission to share, right down to the freeze brand and blue eyes. His expression nearly made me cry--it's just so, so Silver. (You can see it clearly in the last photo.) Memorial Day seemed like an appropriate time to unveil this special memento.

If you celebrate, I hope you're enjoying your holiday weekend. Have a great rest of the week.

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