FLORA VISTA — It's all about showing thanks.

Even though Veterans Day isn't until Monday, area funeral homes and mortuaries hosted a luncheon Thursday to honor living veterans for their service.

More than 20 men and women who served in the military and their guests were treated to lunch and gifts donated by local businesses at Lakeshore Reception Center in Flora Vista.

Bruce Salisbury and his wife sat with Bruce's younger brother, George Salisbury, who drove down from Cortez, Colo. All three are U.S. Air Force veterans.

From right, Bruce Salisbury, Dottie Salisbury and George Salisbury, all U.S. Air Force veterans, engage in a conversation Thursday at Lakeshore Reception
From right, Bruce Salisbury, Dottie Salisbury and George Salisbury, all U.S. Air Force veterans, engage in a conversation Thursday at Lakeshore Reception Center in Flora Vista. (Jon Austria /The Daily Times)

Bruce and George Salisbury, who spent their formative years in Farmington, both attended Farmington High School and remember when Broadway Avenue was a dirt road for pony races and downtown had hitching posts where parking meters now stand. The brothers both altered their birth dates to enlist in the military as teenagers.

"I was rambunctious as a kid and made the decision to go," George Salisbury said.

He served from 1949 to 1952 as a "buck private" in the Air Force's ordinance department, stationed in Manila, Philippines, the site of the only urban battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II.

"I was shocked when I first landed over there," he said. "It was like a big bomb drop, remnants of World War II. They hadn't yet had time to clean up all the rubble. The tallest building was only two stories tall."

Today, George Salisbury, 79, spends a lot of time trying to keep up with his grandchildren. Thursday's event was the first time in nearly a year that the brothers had seen each other in person.

"This is just an honor for me to be here," said Bruce Salisbury, 83. "These guys and gals (hosting the luncheon) knock themselves out to honor veterans, so I go anytime I'm invited to honor their efforts. They do it with their hearts, not because they have to."

Bruce Salisbury has written dozens of stories for the Veteran's Voice, a quarterly national newspaper dedicated to veterans, and is a common sight at military events around the area. He and his wife, Dottie, live just east of Aztec in Center Point and actively research and strive to honor area veterans.

In September, Bruce Salisbury spoke at Farmington Museum at the installation of a portrait of U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kenneth L. Worley, who grew up in Farmington and is the only Marine Medal of Honor recipient from New Mexico. Worley is among many military heroes that Bruce Salisbury is committed to seeing honored and recognized.

While he works to tell the stories of many deceased veterans, Bruce Salisbury says it can sometimes be a struggle to gather living veterans together.

"I don't know why more don't come out -- maybe they don't care or maybe they're, like some of us, getting up there in years," he said.

Jim Rixon attended Thursday's event dressed in his Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2182 lifetime member uniform. Rixon, 52, served for five years in the U.S. Army as an infantry specialist, 4th class, as part of Operation Desert Storm.

"Gathering together like this is a nice tribute to vets who served and those who are serving today," he said. "I appreciate the people who did this. They go out of their way to help and that's a good feeling."

James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and jfenton@daily-times.com. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.