Elks Lodge hosts dinner for veterans

Hannah Grover

FARMINGTON – Hundreds of veterans gathered at Elks Lodge No. 1747 for the ninth annual Veterans Ball Saturday evening.

The meal serves as an opportunity for the Elks to “show our respect to the veterans of San Juan County,” said Rita Gibson, who serves on the veterans' committee for the lodge.

She said more than 400 people attend the event, and the Elks feed veterans and their guests a free meal.

The dinner started with the presentation of flags, including the U.S. flag, the New Mexico flag and flags from each branch of the military, as well as the prisoner of war flag and the killed

Aztec's Laura Bishop sings 'The Star-Spangled Banner' on Saturday during the Veterans Ball at the Elks Lodge in Farmington.

in action flag.

Afterward, Phil Emig, the past exalted ruler of the local Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, and his wife Betty presented the ceremonial table designed to recognize prisoners of war and those missing in action.

Lit candles are held on Saturday during the Veterans Ball at the Elks Lodge in Farmington.

In an interview before the dinner, Emig said the ball's purpose is to remember the veterans' service and the service of active-duty military men and women.

The circular prisoner of war and missing in action table, set at the front of the room, was decorated with various symbols, including a candle representing the hope for their return. A black ribbon draped on the candle symbolized the fact that many will not return.

The dinner also included a candlelight vigil. During the vigil, the veterans and their guests gathered in the center of the room and held their candles in the air while a recording of “Proud to Be an American” played in the background.

Emig said the dinner is a way to show veterans “they’ll not be forgotten.”

“A lot of them have not had the recognition that they deserve,” said Emig, who is himself a veteran, having served in the U.S. Navy from 1969 until 1975.

Betty and Phil Emig participate in the presentation of the ceremonial prisoner of war/missing in action table on Saturday at the Elks Lodge in Farmington.

“I think that (Veterans Day) is more recognized now than it used to be,” he said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.