Artesia is synonymous with Bulldog pride and our faithful spirits do not stop there. Artesians are patriotic. We value liberty. We cherish freedom. We love our country and we can prove it.
We are more than a few American flags flying outside local businesses and obligatory recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance. Artesians live with a passion for traditional American ideals. Not only does Artesia host an annual 4th of July parade and a Veteran’s Day program, the culture of Artesia’s citizens, businesses and organizations deeply value liberty and patriotism. There is an undercurrent of reverence for the history of our nation and what it truly means to be an American.
After a stroll down Main Street and a coffee from Kith and Kin, residents and visitors have the opportunity to visit one of Artesia’s most patriotic parks. Located just east of City Hall on Texas Avenue and North 5th Street, Baish Veteran’s Park, features Freedom’s Fire, a bronze sculpture created by Beverly Paddleford and a beautifully designed Wall of Honor, both dedicated to the veterans of Eddy County.
Freedom’s Fire is represented by an eagle in flight over the fire of liberty. Beverly Paddleford, the sculptor, created Freedom’s Fire with the hope that, “As Americans, we must … continue to rise above that evil that would attempt to stand in the way of our freedom. It is our responsibility to teach future generations to see the priceless value of what is at risk.” The bronze sculpture is inspiring to behold. So much of what the eagle represents to Americans: strength, perseverance, hope, freedom, and liberty, forged into a fantastic work of art, right here in Artesia!
The Wall of Honor recognizes all local U.S. servicemen and servicewomen, living or deceased, who have completed honorable service during times of conflict and/or non-conflict at any period from July 4, 1776 to the present.
According to the city of Artesia’s website, “Baish Park and the Veterans Memorial are dedicated to the veterans of North Eddy County. This park is a place for remembrance, honor, and reflection communicating that Artesia cherishes the sacrifices and dedication of all veterans.” Some of us walk the path of remembrance often.
My husband grew up in a small town not so different from Artesia. He had the quintessential, American boy childhood and a best friend named Wade. Wade knew from a young age that he wanted to serve in the military and at 17, with his parents’ blessing, enlisted in the Marines. Wade was killed in action, at 22 years old, on May 11, 2012. He died a hero, selflessly placing himself directly in the line of fire, protecting his fellow Marines from harm. He posthumously received a Silver Star for valor. There aren’t enough pages in this publication to describe how special Wade was or how much he meant to our family. His loss left an imprint on our lives so profound that a place like Baish Park is much more than a nice place to visit. It is a place to remember. It’s a place to feel his presence and the presence of so many others that have freely given their lives for the liberties we all so often take for granted.
The names of more than 1,100 local veterans are currently engraved along the sixteen panels of the Wall of Honor in Baish Veterans Park. Over one thousand local men and women willingly put their lives on the line to protect the rights and freedoms of their fellow countrymen. These are the people we interact with all the time: our peace officers, teachers, business owners, hunting buddies, golf partners, mechanics, men and women out in the oil patch. They aren’t self-congratulatory or boastful. They don’t tout their sacrifice. They’re here among the rest of us, chasing that American dream they gave so much for all of us to have.
The selflessness of American servicemen and servicewomen is truly astounding. Go stand in the sunshine and look at all of those names one day. If you don’t walk out of Baish Veterans Park humbled and grateful, you need your heart checked.
We can honor those that carved the path of freedom. Visit Baish Veterans Park with your children and tell them what liberty means to you. Teach them that to be American carries the weight of their forefathers. Ignite the flame of patriotism and encourage tolerance, decency, and a love for their fellow man. Be an example when it is time to let the winds of change guide us. Show them when it is time to fight for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
In the words of President John F. Kennedy, “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it.”
Go to Artesia Mainstreet’s website to see more pictures, find a name on the wall, or get an application to submit a veteran to the wall.
Article written by Morgan Fox and originally published in Focus on Artesia 2021 Summer edition.