The Color Guard of the Post 28 fires rifles as part of an event at Clifton's Veterans Park. From left are John Freida, Robert Jackson, Bill Carlso and Steve Guzzo. The guard is often called upon for various community events such as veterans' funerals, Morenci High School football games and more.
White crosses dot the landscape at Clifton's Veterans park. American Legion Post 28 places the crosses in honor of military veterans who have since gone to the great beyond. The crosses are posted on Memorial Day and in November on Veterans Day.
Is it time to lock and load? For the American Legion Post 28 that expression has nothing to do with weapons except maybe when Legionnaires fire rifles as members of the Post's Honor Guard.
This time around the expression involves being prepared for the upcoming Memorial Day on Monday. The Color Guard and other Legionnaires will be holding a ceremony on Memorial Day at Clifton's Veterans Park. It begins at 10 a.m. and the public is invited — actually urged — to attend the ceremony.
The names of veterans from Greenlee County who have passed away will be read. That involves more than 500 from Greenlee who served in World War I, WW II, Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East. The list includes those who served in combat and everyone who served in the military and were non-combatants.
As part of the Memorial Day observance at least 400 flags will be placed on the gravesites of veterans throughout Greenlee. That will include cemeteries in Duncan, Sheldon, Ward's Canyon and Sacred Heart in Clifton and Bunker's in Morenci.
The public is urged to visit veterans' gravesites on Memorial Day, particularly those who have immediate family members or relatives who served in the military.
Meanwhile, Post 28 elected officers for the present year. That occurred on May 17 at the Legion Hall in Clifton. Marine Corps veteran John Freida was re-elected as post commander.
This is Freida's third term in that office. As are most active Legion members, he is a Vietnam War veteran. He served as a field radio operator, with the Marine Corps 1st Division from 1968 to 1970.
Other officers elected were Vice Cmdr. Larry Avila, 2nd Vice Cmdr. Victor Cruz, Adjutant Bill Carlson, Sgt. at Arms Joe Naffaratte, Chaplain Rudy Campos and Service Officer Bernabe Morales.
Post 28 appeared to be on its death throes as recently as four years ago. Along with all Post 28 Legionnaires, Freida's leadership turned the Post's fortunes into a revival. Freida has been successful in obtaining grants and other contributions from the community.
Freeport McMoran Inc. copper company has made a major difference for the Post. Besides its monetary support, FMI, which owns the building in which the post has its headquarters, is having major renovations of the building done.
At recent Legion meetings, a space in the main hall has been cleared to allow for meetings. The rest of the hall is packed with construction materials.
The building housed the Phelps Dodge Mercantile until the late 1960s. In the past there were two Legion posts, one of which was in Old Morenci and the other in Clifton. Old Morenci is long gone and is now part of the Morenci open pit copper mine.
As for membership, Legionnaires are accepting and urging younger veterans. Legionnaire R.T. Jackson points out that active post members, all of whom are Vietnam veterans, are already in their 70s.
"We need new blood to keep the post going," he said. "There are activities that some of us are just getting too old to do. We really need younger members. It is what it amounts to."