Doves are released on Monday during the Salute to the Veterans Memorial Day Ceremony at Memory Gardens in Farmington.
Doves are released on Monday during the Salute to the Veterans Memorial Day Ceremony at Memory Gardens in Farmington. (Megan Farmer — The Daily Times)

FARMINGTON — Lottie C. Augustine, 65, stood with tears streaming down her face on Monday, Memorial Day, as she hugged a folded American flag.

"We are honored to present this flag for which your father honorably and faithfully served his country," said Commander Gene Bustos of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2182, said as Jim Rixon, chaplain for the VFW Post, gave the flag to Augustine.

It was the second time Augustine had the flag folded in a ceremony honoring her father, World War II veteran Spc. James Cleveland, who died in 1966.

"It brought back a lot of memories," she said, " I held (the flag) close to my heart after they gave it back to me. I miss my dad, I was daddy's girl," she said.

From left, Mike, Helen and Sydnie Wood, 6, decorate a family member’s grave on Monday during the Salute to the Veterans Memorial Day Ceremony at
From left, Mike, Helen and Sydnie Wood, 6, decorate a family member's grave on Monday during the Salute to the Veterans Memorial Day Ceremony at Memory Gardens in Farmington. (Megan Farmer — The Daily Times)

Augustine was one of nearly 300 people who attended the Salute to the Veterans service held at Memory Gardens Monday morning.

The Memorial Day event paid tribute to veterans who died in combat and recognized the service of military members with speeches and songs.

"We pay our respects to those who have fallen and made the ultimate sacrifice," said Lt. Col. Randy Velarde, a Farmington police officer and U.S. Army National Guardsman.

He stood at the center of eight photographs of local servicemen who died in combat, including one of U.S. Army Sgt. Lee Todacheene, who was reportedly the first Navajo serviceman killed in action in 2004 in the Iraq War, said Air Force Lt. Col. Bruce Black.

Black also spoke about the history of the armed services in the United States.

As the hour-long service drew to a close, Tech. Sgt. Trent LaChance, who is on active duty, helped release white doves.

LaChance said he's been deployed to Afghanistan three times as well as other places in the world and is thankful to all the veterans who have served in the armed forces.

"I personally, as an American citizen, would like to take the opportunity to thank them for their sacrifices," he said. "They made me the man that I am today."

Kachina Ganz mourns the death of her father on Monday at the Greenlawn cemetery in Farmington.
Kachina Ganz mourns the death of her father on Monday at the Greenlawn cemetery in Farmington. (Megan Farmer — The Daily Times)

Part of the ceremony included a bike run of more than 50 motorcycles that rode under an giant American flag hanging from Farmington Fire Department trucks.

"We've supported this event since they started," said Denver DeWees, chaplain with the Christian Motorcyclist Association.

"It's our civic duty," he said, noting that many of his family members served in the armed forces.

"We want to show our appreciation for the past and present soldiers," he added.

In the evening, the Field of Honor - Healing Field Program conducted a closing ceremony. The wind blew as more than 500 American flags flickered in the wind. The short snaps of the flags were joined by the chiming of military-style identification tags.

The flags and tags were purchased by families to commemorate veterans, said Drew Degner, co-chair of the Healing Field Program.

Gary Risley, the program's co-chairman, said the primary sponsor of the event was the San Juan County Rotary Club. He said the club plans to build a "Freedom Park" in Farmington, which would have a field for the Healing Field flags.

Degner said the club wanted to bring back the meaning of Memorial Day by using the Healing Field to pay homage to fallen veterans.

"We wanted to bring back the true meaning of Memorial Day," he said.

Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638. and ezah@daily-times.com. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.