Candlelight vigil draws 200

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

GALLUP, Nov. 14, 2013

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At least 200 people gathered for a candlelight vigil at the Rio West Mall here to honor the men and women of the United States military, past and present.

Hosted by Gallup's Veterans Helping Veterans organization, the event included various actions in honor of veterans, including posting of colors, sharing stories and an honor board where photos, clips and certificates were posted.

"It's just to pay tribute, respect and remember everyone who has served in the military because if it wasn't for the military we wouldn't be where we're at today. We wouldn't be a free country," said Veterans Helping Veterans member Felix Martinez, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

"To me, being a veteran just meant that the price of freedom is very high, and the veterans paid the price for it," Martinez added. "This is just our way of paying tribute to the fallen soldiers."

This year the candlelight vigil was held inside Rio West Mall by the southwest entrances so people wouldn't have to bear the cold weather.

"This is a special honor for all of us. This is our candlelight vigil for veterans, past and present," David Cuellar, U.S. Army E-5 Veteran and MC, said during the vigil. "We pray for our veterans, our veterans' families and we pray for our veterans sill in harm's way. We pray until they are out of harm's way."

"I don't think there is a branch better than any other. We all had a job to do," Cuellar said after a video was played that shared each of the branches' military song. While the song played Cuellar asked veterans from each branch to cheer and sing along when their military song started.

"Our message is we support our veterans and our veterans' families, present and past," Cuellar said of Veterans Helping Veterans. "If we're not willing to take care of our own, why should we expect anyone else to?"

Eight boards lined a corner of the Rio West Mall that displayed pictures of veterans from all branches of service.

"This board is a board of honor, and you go up there, you see their picture. It's a sense of belonging," Cuellar said.

Glyunida Diaz from Gallup, N.M. displayed photos on the honor board in honor of her grandfather and uncles who served in the military, but she was also at the vigil in honor of her husband, veteran Frank Diaz, who attended the event with her.

Glyunida said that this candlelight vigil is a good way to for families to come together and honor the people they love, but she also believes it shows the younger generations that they must treat their veterans with respect.

The Davis family from Fort Defiance, Ariz. attended the vigil in honor of all the military in their family.

Carol Davis said they come to the vigil to support the veterans because they are a military family.

Davis said her military family includes her father, Rogar Poncho, U.S. Marine; sons Derrick Davis, U.S. Army and Bryan Davis, U.S. Marine as well as her daughter-in-law, Felicia Weaver-Davis, U.S. Marine.

Davis's other son Sheldon Davis, 20, is prepping to leave for the service in March of next year. He will be joining the U.S. Marines.

"It was moving," Sheldon said on being a part of the candlelight vigil, adding that "veterans need the support of people because what else are they fighting for?"

"I'm here basically for everybody," said Tyron Davis, Carol's husband, adding that everyone coming together to honor veterans is a great thing. "We're always here to support. We're very proud of everybody here and those who have served."

"It helps knowing that other people are here to support you. They know how you're feeling," Carol added.

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